Hoa Review

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Hoa is a puzzle-platforming game developed by Skrollcat Studio and published by PM Studios. Developed in the Unity engine, Hoa will release for PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and XBox on August 24th, 2021.

Feel like a kid again.

Offering some incredibly imaginative and original design, get ready to lose yourself entirely as you enter a whole new world in Hoa. Exploring the game and taking in the scenery really brought a level of immersion that I’ve not felt in a long while. Let me know in the comments what you thought? Were you able to lose yourself in Hoa?

Gameplay

Hoa is designed to be relaxing, peaceful and imaginative, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Playing as Hoa (the main character) the goal is to unlock her past and learn her story through exploratory based puzzles. The game is split into levels, with each level having its own slumbering titan; a friendly NPC you must awaken to learn a little bit more about your story and sometimes, a new skill. I won’t say too much about this, as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

A ‘gentle, yet compelling flow’ encourages us to explore the game, discovering wonderful new characters and environments along the way. NPC interaction is kept at a minimum, with quick dialogues which maximise play and minimise interruption. I was pleasantly surprised to see some more unusual and unique platformer mechanics, such as the spider web maze.

By breaking strands, players must move through the web and reach the exit point.

Being a platformer, there is of course lots of jumping, swinging and obstacles with varying levels of difficulty. One of my personal favourites were the bluebell flower swings. Bluebells are often strung together and by swinging back and forth to gain momentum players must perfectly execute each jump in order to progress.

A series of swings and jumps, each must be executed perfectly to reach the platform.

On the final level of the game, the screen rotates, creating some interesting and difficult puzzles. Trying to swing from flower to flower like in the above image is much more difficult when upside down! This level really makes you use all the skills you learn throughout the game. The screen rotation is a little disorientating and at times I had to look away for a moment to recover, so if like me you suffer from motion sickness be prepared to take a little break during this part of the game!

Graphics & Audio

Hoa features some breath-taking artwork, all hand-painted and seamlessly put together to offer a truly immersive experience. I was able to lose myself completely in the game as I explored the jungle, lake and factory levels. I didn’t notice a single graphical glitch, which is pretty impressive considering everything’s hand-painted!

The use of lighting in the underwater levels really changed the whole vibe of the game.

A glowing flower offers a light amongst the darkness.

Through visuals alone, the artists have managed to give each NPC it’s own personality. I often found myself imagining what each character would be like, whether they’d be good or bad, curious or inquisitive.. an experience I’ve not had from a game in a long time. My favourite was the little bubbled jelly fish, who in my mind are curious and playful things.

Bounce from one jelly to another to reach the higher platform.

Longevity

There isn’t a whole lot to say here. Hoa offers 3 to 5 hours of gameplay, however, being an avid gamer I found myself completing the game in just over 2 hours.

Due to the story-telling and puzzle mechanics, Hoa feels like a one-time thing. Once you’ve completed the game there is no real incentive to go back and play again. I managed to grab all 18 achievements (playing through Steam) on my first playthrough.

Final Thoughts

Hoa is a beautifully well-designed puzzle-platformer with a truly stunning art style and it really provides a relaxing experience. The puzzle difficulty does ramp up fairly quickly towards the end and some players might struggle with the mechanics in the final level. I found myself a little frustrated at times with the screen rotation and I can see some players really struggling with this section.

However, I’d recommend this game to anyone who enjoys pick-up and play solo games and err on the side of caution to anyone who – like me, becomes easily motion sick.

Overall I think this is a fantastic little game and the developers should be proud, it’s great to see a more junior team producing a game of this standard. I look forward to seeing what they create next! Therefore, I award Hoa a Thumbculture Silver award.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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