Hoa
Gameplay 7
Graphics 9
Sound 8

Hoa is a puzzle platformer with beautiful hand-painted art and a moving piano soundtrack that is a perfect match for the relaxing gameplay. It’s not a very challenging game, apart from the last level where the difficulty ramps up rather unexpectedly, but it is very enjoyable. The subject and style mean this is not going to be a game for everyone, but Studio Ghibli fans will love the aesthetic of Hoa, and it is hard not to be charmed by the presentation.

Gameplay: Very easy, but great casual players and newcomers to the genre.

Graphics: The art and animations are top-notch.

Sound: The soundtrack and sound effects are incredible

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Hoa

Developer: Skrollcat Studio | Publisher: PM Studios, inc., CE-Asia | Release Date: 2021 | Genre: Puzzle Platformer / Adventure / Casual | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

As far as first impressions go, it’s hard not to be charmed by the opening moments of Hoa. This puzzle platformer by Skrollcat Studio sees a tiny little fairy on a leaf wash up on a barren shore, which transforms into lush grass and flowers under her feet as she disembarks. The beautiful hand-painted art and soothing music really set the tone for the rest of the game and immediately draws comparisons to something from a Studio Ghibli movie.

If there’s one word that sums up Hoa, it’s “relaxing.” While the game features enemies in the form of tiny mechanical robots, the worse they can do to Hoa is give her a non-lethal kick. Instead of killing everything in sight, Hoa has to explore each area to find special engravings. These engravings awaken the guardian of the area after they are activated, who then reward Hao with a new ability, provided she has found the five butterflies tucked away all over the map too. Although this might make Hoa sound like a Metroidvania title, this is not the case. Levels are relatively small, and upon arrival, players are given a map that shows precisely where each engraving and firefly can be found. Not much backtracking is required to get to any of them, and only very young or inexperienced players should find the platforming challenging.

The relaxing atmosphere and lack of challenge make Hoa an ideal title for casual players or anyone who simply want to experience the game without getting frustrated. At least, that’s the way it appears initially, but this all changes when players reach the game’s final level. Here players are required to make full use of all the skills Hoa has learned while traversing sections where the controls are inverted and platforms stretch out at odd angles. It’s a somewhat jarring change of pace, especially as an action-packed gauntlet section on the previous level plays out as a cut-scene instead of something that could have been exciting for players to experience. Although the final level is still not as challenging as what fans of the genre will be used to, it will definitely catch more casual players off-guard, considering how easy the preceding levels were.

As we have already mentioned, Hoa has a very Ghibli art style with vibrant colors and whimsical creature designs. The visuals look great in screenshots but even better in motion as tiny details are visible everywhere.

The soft pastel colors and subtle animations quickly draw players into the game, and the character design for Hoa is also very adorable. Hoa is a very tiny fairy, and this is reflected in the size of her surroundings. Little larvas can be used as bouncing pads to reach higher areas, while jittery ladybirds serve as timed platforms. Hoa’s journey takes her through the forest to underground and even underwater levels before culminating in a visit to a factory as well as the dreamlike final level. While most of the levels follow themes that have already appeared multiple times in the genre, they still look great in this game. Overall, it’s not a very long game, but it also does not overstay its welcome.

The piano-heavy soundtrack of Hoa will also remind players of Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi. The music is a perfect match for the beautiful visuals, and the sound effects are also spot on. We played Hoa using a controller and found the little fairy to be a breeze to control. Hoa does gain some new abilities, such as double-jumping and gliding, over the course of her adventure, but these were easy to master. Since Hoa cannot be hurt or killed, it also means that the platforming sections lack some of the tension and excitement commonly found in the genre. This will be a plus for some players, but those used to more challenging titles might find it a little too sedate.

Hoa is short enough that dedicated players should be able to complete it in one sitting, and unfortunately, it doesn’t have a lot of replay value either. There are no optional extras to find and no reason to try and explore off the beaten track. Nevertheless, the game is very enjoyable while it lasts and filled with enough memorable moments that players will think back fondly on after completing it. We encountered the odd bug during our playthrough, but the developers have since released a major update that addressed all of them while adding a level select mode in the process. Hoa is definitely not a game for players who demand non-stop action or like speedrunning through challenging levels. However, it is a short, sweet, and mellow game that is perfect for players searching for something a little more forgiving than typical puzzle platformers.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 (64bit)
  • Processor: AMD / Intel CPU running at 2.8 GHz or higher
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD/NVIDIA graphic card, with at least 2GB of dedicated VRAM and with at least DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5.1 support: AMD Radeon HD 7870 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 or newer is recommended.
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 8 GB available space
  • Sound Card: Integrated or dedicated DirectX 9 compatible sound card
  • OS: Windows 10 (64bit)
  • Processor: AMD / Intel processor running at 3.5 GHz or higher
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD/NVIDIA dedicated graphic card, with at least 4GB of dedicated VRAM (or more) and with at least DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5.1 support: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or AMD Radeon R9
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 8 GB available space
  • Sound Card: Integrated or dedicated DirectX 9 compatible sound card
  • OS: 10.13.6 (High Sierra) or later
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i5 (4 Cores) @ 2.3 GHz
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon M295X @ 2GB
  • Storage: 8 GB available space

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