by September 8, 2021 @ 2:45 pm
Reviewed on Switch
Video games have always been expressive works of art in some way. Now more than ever, though, a video game can be made to evoke specific emotions in the player and to create an experience that the player can get lost in on a deeper level. Hoa from Skrollcat Studio is that type of game. It’s a puzzle-platformer that uses its wondrous sights and sounds to create a relaxed mood, and it’s the very definition of a chill video game. It’s not perfect, but if you’re looking for something that favors tranquility over chaos, you’ll find that here.
An Audiovisual Triumph
The first thing that stands out about Hoa is its masterful art style. The game look absolutely stunning. Clearly inspired by Studio Ghibli, the visuals presented here have a highly stylized and detailed animated film look. All of the game’s stages are a sight to behold, and though there are only a few, they each offer different themes, so you get a unique visual experience with every level.
The music of Hoa is equally magnificent, with a powerful orchestral score that uses a lot of piano compositions to create an emotional sound throughout. On its own, the game’s music is great — but combined with the art, it helps to create a wonderful audiovisual treat that lets you get lost in the gameplay experience.
A Calming Puzzle-Platformer
Like the graphics and music in Hoa, the gameplay is also very laidback. Though the game is a puzzle-platformer, it’s not at the level of challenge as something like Out of Line or Trine 4. Instead, Hoa goes for a simpler, more easygoing puzzle-platforming experience. And that’s fine, because the game’s focus is more on letting you witness its world unfold than it is about making you scratch your head while you think about how to solve a challenge.
You’ll push blocks, double-jump, and hit switches like in other puzzlers, but the way the game has you progressing is at a slower, calmer pace. It does a good job of letting you just sit back and enjoy the ride. That said, the game’s pacing and low difficulty won’t appeal to everyone. But for those who are into aesthetically driven games or just need something soothing to play, Hoa definitely ticks those boxes.
The game doesn’t overstay its welcome, either. You can get through Hoa in two hours, which is perfect for this type of puzzle-platformer. It’s the kind of game you pick up when you just need a breather from everyday life.
It’s worth noting that I did encounter a few bugs while playing Hoa on Switch, the first of which was pretty serious. Near the end of the game, I entered an area, but the player character got stuck to the wall and fell into a dark screen. I couldn’t move or interact with anything, so I quit and restarted the game. Unfortunately, this loaded up a black screen. I had to do this multiple times, and I was finally able to continue at the start of the area where I left off after several attempts.
Another minor issue was with enemies and friendly NCPs. Some of them displayed inconsistent AI behavior, such as getting stuck on walls. Thankfully, these AI issues weren’t that bad, though I hope the devs do look into the aforementioned black screen bug, because that could potentially kill the immersion between the player and the game.
Hoa is a lovely a little game that doesn’t demand much of your time or energy. It’s a chill game that’s designed to let you de-stress and just get lost in a calming audiovisual work of art. Sometimes it can get a little too chill and border on mundane, but all in all, it’s a solid puzzle-platformer that’s sure to delight you if you’re looking for this exact type of escape.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
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