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Hylics (PC) artwork

Hylics (PC) review

"Remember that time you dropped acid and played Dragon Quest? This is the sequel..."

Hylics (PC) image

"Weird" does not even begin to describe the surreal RPG deconstruction that is Hylics. No, Earthbound is weird. Zeno Clash is weird. Incredible Crisis is weird. This game, on the other hand, is pretty much a turn-based fever dream. The most normal thing you encounter is the protagonist's name: Wayne. While everyone else in this adventure boasts monikers like Somsnosa or Dedusmuln, our hero is simply Wayne.

The dude embarks on a quest to fight some random villain on the moon named Gibby. Why, you ask? I couldn't tell you because nothing in the opening cutscene makes sense. To be fair, I don't think the preliminary material is supposed to be intelligible... The antagonist appears and you receive naught but word salad as introductory text. Get used to garble like this because nearly all flavor text consists of arbitrary words that form grammatically correct sentences. You might walk up to an NPC with a macaroni noodle for a head and try to chat with him, only for him to spout confusion like, "Cold dysplasia actualizes my alphabetic noose. Do you evade the ramshackle continuity or stimulate the ensanguined parsimony?" My advice: don't try to look for hidden meanings in the dialogue or decipher the game's ramblings. Just go with the flow...

This one goes out of its way to present as many bizarre, backwards concepts and scenarios as possible. In this world, toilet paper serves as armor, an unloaded gun becomes a weapon, a live squirrel makes for decent headgear, you learn new spells by watching TV instead of reading books, and bath tubs and couches restore your vitals rather than beds. The strangeness even permeates into the menu screen where "get dressed" replaces "equip," your stats are found in the status dossier section, and the "save" screen displays images of your party's legs rather than their profiles. And yes, your statistics come with odd names, too. Cooking? Jollity? Philology? Like I said, just go with the flow...

Hylics (PC) image

Hylics doesn't offer much guidance through its screwy campaign. Even if it tried, it's likely you wouldn't understand what its colorful characters are telling you anyway. Instead, you have approach this one somewhat like an old school RPG: by exploring and figuring out where you can and can't venture. Light searching early on eventually takes you to a mountain covered in cone-headed cultists and their annoying, blinding idols. Combat consists of the usual rigmarole of either attacking, defending, running, casting spells, or using items in turn-based battles. Here, though, you don't acquire experience and level up. Instead, most of your character bolstering comes from earning money and purchasing new equipment, or by locating items that permanently increase stats.

Unless, of course, you're Somsnosa, then you can beef up your strength--no, wait, mightiness--by squashing bugs found throughout the campaign.

The cultists are just the tip of the bestiary iceberg. You also contend with foot-headed monsters that walk upside down, an ambulant coil of meat, and a literal fat head. Yes, literal. He's a humanoid beast with a glob of fat for a head. The worst are those that can't be easily described, such as a boss called Horrid Projection, which basically looks like a man being devoured by a shapeless, tentacled mass of writhing, dripping flesh. Its only vaguely human features jut out of its bottom half in the form of booted feet.

As you travel through various dungeons and hit up numerous locales, you start to see where the rail lies. You usually end an area by recruiting a new friend to help you fight or by activating something that will allow you to delve further into the madness. You might, say, hike around the cultist mountain a bit until you find your new ally, Dedusmuln. With him in your party, you can now survive the foes at the warp station to the south, which takes to another continent containing not only another buddy, but a switch that opens a gate on the introductory island. Now you can sail the open seas!

Hylics (PC) image

The game doesn't outline any of these events for you. It's not like Wayne walks up to a king who begs our hero to save another boring princess, but conveniently warns him about the cultist mountain. No one on the hillside not-so-subtly drops a hint that you can find something interesting to the south, and not a single NPC mentions moseying to another landmass and plowing through a tower or search a cemetery. You make all of these discoveries on your own, and they aren't hidden behind obtuse riddles like retro adventure games might've done.

That's part of the beauty of Hylics. Nothing makes sense, and yet you know exactly what's happening. No one tells you where to go and you just figure it out intuitively. Perhaps the game wants to remind us that the quest is more important than the storytelling. The tale can be absolute nonsense, but none of that matters if the campaign isn't at least solid. And this one is at least solid. Granted, it stands bit on the easy side, but it only lasts a few hours and doesn't even have the chance to overstay its welcome.

Besides, the peculiar realm remains the main draw here. Most of your characters are at least humanoid, but they can't really be classified beyond that. Dedusmuln, for instance, sports a couple of curly tentacles resting on his shoulders instead of a head. How does he speak? It doesn't matter, just go with the flow. The land doesn't showcase your average features like trees or rocks. Instead, it's littered with things like giant noses, writhing tendrils, and random bones. It resembles something you'd see on MTV's Liquid Television, usually sandwiched in between Aeon Flux and Crazy Daisy Ed just to give your palate a cleanse.

Hylics (PC) image

The bottom line: this is not your average turn-based RPG, and yet it is. It looks and acts differently, but its mechanics ooze familiarity. I mean, if you think about it, how much do assets and verbiage matter in roleplayers? What difference does it make if you sleep in a bed, take a bath, or pet a dog to restore your hit points? Just about any activity can fill that void, but for some reason taking a snooze became the standard. I don't know if the developer intended to convey this message, but in a way it deconstructs the genre and asks why we perform the same tasks in each of the category's offerings. What difference does it make if the first person in a town makes small talk or blathers incoherently when the effect is the same? You're not going to find either instance of dialogue useful or memorable. Hylics wants to you to forget about narrative and remember what lies at the core of this genre: embarking on a journey. And man, what a journey this one has for you...

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (February 21, 2023)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted February 23, 2023:

If you're gonna spam my reviews, at least advertise something cool like porn or horror movies. FOH with the crypto nonsense.
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honestgamer posted February 25, 2023:

You tell 'em, Joe! (And I agree, even though I didn't see the spam post.)

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