With hocus. we may have reached the paragon of iOS puzzlers. It is everything that the button-eliding vision that Steve Jobs had for Apple: clean, clever, and neatly compartmentalized. Its sole action? A gentle swipe. Its soundtrack? Wind chimes. Its hue? Chrome-grey and off-white. It’s as much of an Apple product a videogame can hope to be without the company itself as author.
You might argue for Monument Valley to be more exemplary of the type. But you’d be wrong. That has a colorful princess and squawking crows. It also has a totem friend with googly eyes. What is this, Nintendo? Nah, look at hocus.; it’s Monument Valley without all of that dressing. It’s pure, naked, unapologetic M. C. Escher.
The famous graphic artist’s perspective-bending cube has been used as a keystone here. Every subsequent puzzle is that same idea—of 3D shapes contorting inwards in an impossible loop—made more complex, adding more beams and corners to each structure. Tracing your eyes along the lines results in confusion as you end up back where you started through some subversive geometric tomfoolery.
But to play hocus. is to demonstrate how deceiving it truly is. Should you refrain from interaction and try to plan ahead the puzzles can only be imposing. You get lost in your own head. How can this cube get from its starting position to the red hole? That’s all you need to know. The solution arrives like a magician’s trick as you swipe to move the cube along the narrow surfaces. A strange intuition possesses you.
Rather than look where you’re going you can make a decision at each vertex. You don’t really need to know where you might end up. The cube rolls along until it hits the next junction. You make another decision. Before you know it, hey, there it is: you’ve arrived at your destination. It’s as if Apple’s old slogan of “It just works” has returned in game form.
The title of hocus. clearly alludes to the illusions within these 3D-looking shapes. But it could also doubly refer to this naturally occurring puzzle-solving magic that it brings out in us. It must be something in the graphic design.