I, Hope is a game made with one goal in mind: to make it easier for sick children to cope with their disease. Through gameplay and storytelling, they find the elements they require to face their issues: Knowledge, Strength, Courage, Support and Hope.
What makes it all 100x better, is that every penny made by selling the game goes to charity: GameChanger is an organization that sets out to help kids in many ways, the method dearest to my heart is to help them escape from their daily woes by providing entertainment in the form of consoles and games to play on them in hospitals across the US.
Story & Gameplay
The story is told mostly through the narrator as he gives you instruction on how to overcome the challenges of each of the islands, carrying the same names as the powers you receive on them:
The first power you gain, Knowledge, allows you to see patterns, puzzle clues or hints to collect one of the collectible medallions, but more on those later.
The second power, Strength, allows you to move large objects. In the third level you get Courage, which freezes enemies and objects in their path.
And finally you’ll get the power of Support, which acts as this game’s unique spin on the double jump: fabricating a small bridge out of thin air.
Longtime Legend of Zelda players may have a déjà-vu as the triforce of Power, Courage and Wisdom each have their representation here. But besides just adding new twists to the age-old formula, the game tries to reinforce the idea of how important these “powers” are to cope with your real-life issues. Which is a wonderful message.
While the main enemy here is literally called Cancer, I think the morals could be applied to most chronic illnesses as well.
There are also smaller enemies in each level but they can all be purged from the evil that has taken over them by absorbing the cancerous cells into your staff. Just a few quick hits from that same staff is usually all it takes to first weaken them. What’s rather cute is how they transform back into peaceful little critters after you “excorsize” them.
Absorbing those cancer-cells also provides you with projectiles and shooting them will be a skill you need to beat the bossfights with Cancer at the end of each level. Those usually require more than just simple hack & slash gameplay and instead require you to use one or all of your acquired skills.
Graphics & Audio
I, Hope isn’t the prettiest Xbox One game in the store, but it’s impressive what was achieved by Kenny Roy, the developer, in only two years. There are some nice visual touches like the ocean below the levels, but it’s obvious it isn’t animated. Characters and objects could use a little more polish, but again: this wasn’t a AAA big budget title and it more then achieves what it sets out to do with the visuals at hand.
On the audio front though, there was one thing that blew me away: the optional cave where you can listen to music and read inspirational messages. The Cave is available from the start, but you can add extra songs to the repertoire by collection the letters H O P E in each level. They’re often hidden just out of sight or require the use of the goggles of Knowledge.
The combination of the lovely setting (whith a tiny dolphin in the center of the pond, which was a nice touch), the music and those messages with a deeper meaning… It was a rather emotional experience.
I, Hope is a rather short experience and could use a bit more graphical polish, but the message it sends is nothing short of amazing. It’s a condensed, Zelda-like adventure with a moral that lasts way longer than its actual gameplay. The final score only reflects the technical achievements of the game, but in spirit it’s a 10 out of 10!
I urge everyone to buy this game, especially in light of the charity it supports. Even if you don’t have an Xbox One or a PC yourself: get it for someone else and spread the love!
Here’s some footage of the opening level: