The story and world of Hoa is full of color and personality, enough to captivate you during every moment you play.
Happiness lies more often in the journey than the destination. It’s an openness to new experiences that reveal new possibilities to discover. The key to what we search for is often in our willingness to embark upon the first steps of a journey, and the experiences we share with others on our way. Hoa is one such journey where you explore a fantastic natural world as an adorable fairy of the same name.
This side scrolling adventure is immersive from the moment you open the game. After arriving in a new land, Hoa unfurls the mysteries throughout the woods of her adventure and makes many admirable friends along the way. Through careful exploration Hoa is charged with gathering elusive golden butterflies, and empowering magic inscriptions to unlock new paths along her way. The characters she befriends along the way teach her new abilities in exchange for golden butterflies and offer helpful insights about Hoa’s past.
Hoa is a delightfully casual experience with fluid and gentle gameplay. From the moment the game begins there’s not much to distract from enjoying the animated landscapes and gentle storytelling. As Hoa descends into her journey the visuals speak volumes and as they establish emotional connections to the natural world. Without a distracting learning curve or overly complex mechanics there’s a fantastic feeling of raw exploration that grows from the grandeur of lush layers that make up the 2d environments.
Our small main character quickly becomes larger than life as she explores the enchanted realms. The platforming play style is full of delightful surprises as abilities are eventually unlocked. The simplicity of the controls feels familiar yet the gameplay is well paced and introduces new skills at the right time and place. With little effort the controls broaden with abilities to double jump, glide, push, and ground slam into certain objects for more height. Characters, objects and environments are embellished with visual charm similar to the styles of Ni No Kuni or Hayao Miazaki’s related cinema. Things that may at first seem like objects are often personified into creatures by the simplest of cartoon eyeballs. The interactions that follow weave together the stages and story in creative ways that transition as well as they entertain.
Since there’s no need to worry about health or other stats, the challenge is modest but present. While some of the later acrobatics require good timing to succeed it’s unlikely to break the mood of the game or the momentum of the gameplay by becoming repetitive or frustrating. Unlike other games in the genre, there are no anxiety inducing pitfalls or enemies to seek and destroy. Even the purpose of the journey is patiently revealed over the course of each stage. Where other titles focus on competition in a fast paced environment, Hoa is an emotional one-shot adventure that flows like a trip down a gentle stream with a subtle reminder to stop and smell the flowers along your way. Additional content like secret items and time trials just for the sake of replay value would likely feel out of place and distract from the game’s more artistic values.
An emotionally charged piano leads the score and imparts romantic melodies into the gameplay. The soundtrack adds a surreal sense of wonder to the sights of the world and enhances connections attached to the story and characters. The compositions invoke emotions heavily, like modern versions of classical concertos from the romantic era.
Hoa plays like a fable from folklore with the visual depth of a well made pop-up Book. With each stage a page turns and reveals a new friend and an engaging piece of Hoa’s backstory. While the length of the story can be enjoyed in a few sessions, the finale is sure to make an unforgettable impression as events taking place before the game’s introduction are revealed in a sincerely heartwarming way.
Hoa is an interactive work of art painted on a canvas that hands you the controls. The visuals and sound create an atmosphere that’s ready to embark on an adventure of discovery from the very start. It reaches beyond the horizon of what’s expected in video games to draw players into a place they would’ve never imagined otherwise.
-Gorgeous 2-D environments
-Heartwarming characters and story
-Romantic classical soundtrack
-Modest challenge and length
-No replay value
5 out of 5
Review code provided by Team Critical Hit. Hoa is available now on Steam!