Are you ready to take a beautiful journey full of wonderful sights and sounds? Then look no further than the recently released Hoa. Developed by Vietnam based Skrollcat Studio, the hand-painted artwork is truly a sight to behold. While it’s hard not to compare the style to Studio Ghibli, Hoa does have its own charms and quirks. Is it worth taking the journey to find out for yourself? We think so.
Taking the role of the titular character, players are tasked with journeying through the land, interacting with creatures from her past while learning why she left her homeland to begin with. Light platforming is the main driving force for gameplay, but there are some puzzle elements as well. Along the way, Hoa will gain abilities such as a double jump that allows her to advance to further areas. It’s worth noting that gaining abilities doesn’t take the Metroidvania route. In other words, once you’ve gained an ability, you move on to the next area without any backtracking.
What really makes Hoa shine the brightest is its art and music. The character designs and environments are absolutely stunning. Ranging from cute and whimsical to gorgeous, Hoa is a treat on the eyes throughout. Simultaneously, the score by Swedish composer Johannes Johansson is superb. At times reminiscent of “One Summer’s Day” from Spirited Away, the piano score is lovely and a perfect accompaniment on Hoa’s journey. As the game goes on, the orchestral score kicks in, transforming into a more haunting soundscape along with the story. Without spoiling anything, the final act of the game is powerful and impactful. It also introduces new visuals and mechanics, making it feel strong and unique.
With all this in mind, Hoa is not without its flaws. The gameplay loop is very repetitive: enter a new area, collect a handful of butterflies, go to a designated landmark on the map, speak to the main creature of the area, rinse and repeat. When you initially interact with these main landmarks and creatures in the game, it will almost always lead to stuttering (at least it did while playing the last gen version). The double jump command also doesn’t always execute. The platforming is pretty easy overall, but the issue still leads to some frustration.
Simply put, Hoa is a beautiful looking and sounding game. It’s hard to think of another game that has visuals and a score that simultaneously hits those highs. Regardless, the gameplay is too simplistic and repetitive to ignore. There are some new and interesting visuals and mechanics at the very end of the game, but it doesn’t compensate for the overly repetitive nature that preceded it. Despite this, this is still well worth picking up for the wonderful journey to experience.
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