Hoa is an intricate hand-painted character and environment art platformer released this week. Visually it succeeds wonderfully with Miyazaki-like aesthetics in illustration, animation, and special effects. It also boasts an absolutely charming ambiance in its background music plus sound effects that are cinematic in quality and effect. It also is available in 10 different languages right from its launch. I feel very relaxed playing Hoa, and even watching someone playing it can be very pleasant. If you have ever been a fan of Totoro or woodland creatures with endearing hearts, fall in love as I did with the game Hoa. Let’s take a look.
Thank you to Indie Game Collective and Skrollcat Studios for collaborating to make this showcase possible.
Gameplay in Hoa
The world of Hoa begins on a grassy shore that brings you right into the aesthetic and also acts as a tutorial. Movement is incredibly simple consisting really only of walking and jumping. This certainly seems enough for the environments that craftily do the rest of the work for you. You can leap up to unfolding flowers, jump from a creature’s shell, bounce off a glowing larva, or swing from vine to vine with bell cup stems hanging from branches. It is pretty easy to get around and aside from some intrinsic puzzle-solving skills, you’ll have no problem beginning your friendship with the nameless thumb-sized character you imbue.
Although my session has been exploring the introductory larva hollows of the beginning area, you can tell that there are diverse themes in the path of this adventure based on screens from the game preview. Yes, places filled with gargantuan spirits and steampunk boiler labyrinths. I enjoy seeing the previews of these areas quite a bit, which confirm the suspected intentionality of Hoa for me.
Why We Love Games Like This
In all honesty, I do not think Hoa needs to have any sort of complex story. That’s not just because it is a platformer, but the artistic expression of the game is a primary focal point. There does seem to be a lead-in having something to do with robots or machines or something. I think if there is a story though, it is mostly in the friendship with creatures in the forest. And really, I’m fine knowing the essentials alone while I’m leaping flowers for butterflies. It’s a cute, artistic, chill-out game, and I suggest going into it with that perspective!
It can be ambitious to tackle writing about visual-heavy content without the proper thematic backgrounds in education to describe them. I’m weak-sauce when it comes to anime, but Miyazaki? I can talk about Miyazaki. That is the producer of the classic Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away animated films, amongst others. Big-eyed adorable beasts and glistening, glowing groves fall right into this specialty. And topped with the music, the cinematic quality of Hoa is simply as adoring as those films.
Peers and Influences of Hoa
I’ve seen these themes replicated as a genre on their own in some other games. Games like Ori, Bastion, or even Chronology come to mind. I’ve seen sneak peeks of other games that remind me of this too, that either dropped off the radar or I simply didn’t see because I wasn’t looking in the right place. Not every game can pull it off, but dedication leads to payout in Hoa.
Most days, I’d take a visual novel to ease my commentary payload, but delightful treasures like Hoa are regenerative and spirit-lifting. I think if you want to play a relaxing game that’s immersive and unique, Hoa is my prime recommendation. If you want to check it out, be sure to head to the Steam link below.
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