Hoa is a great new game if you want something peaceful and reminiscent of a whimsical anime. The Skrollcat Studio game may not have come from Japan, but it is very Ghibli-esque with a beautiful score, whimsical art, and a cute, simple story.
The game follows a small fairy named Hoa, the last of her kind. The player must go through various kingdoms, meet the leaders/chiefs, and collect butterflies, all while unraveling the story.
Hoa is a puzzle-platformer, so the mechanics are very simple, making the game relaxing. The most difficult parts are just from trying to hop onto different blocks and bugs to reach your destinations. You find butterflies, that grant you powers, and wake leaders up by lighting “engravings”.
Each leader gives you a little more insight as to what happened to your kind and why you are on this lone adventure. You go through a forest, a rock kingdom, an ocean world, a metal world with a cool steampunk vibe, and more.
There isn’t too much to Hoa since you can easily beat it in one sitting, but it’s still definitely worth playing.
What I Liked about Hoa
The music is phenomenal. Composed by Swedish composer Johannes Johansson (Akmigone), the score was practically straight out of a Studio Ghibli film. Many themes sounded like they’d been created by Joe Hisaishi himself. In fact, the music in the ladybug kingdom reminded me of Spirited Away. It made the experience very relaxing and felt like I’d hopped into a whimsical anime land.
I loved the simplicity. It was nice to relax with this simple game. The storyline wasn’t complex and the gameplay wasn’t difficult. Some parts were frustrating, such as one of the last levels where you have to play upside down and backward (but that also added to the uniqueness as well).
The art was beautiful and adorable. The hand-painted visuals paired perfectly with the sublime music for an anime slice-of-life experience.
What I Didn’t Like
I didn’t like the level where you work in the dark and play backward. It’s one of the last levels and very frustrating, but hey, that’s all a part of playing a game. The majority of the game was very relaxing, so my mind was probably just used to not having to expend the energy. This was a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of the game.
Also I’m all for complex, interpretive endings, but the ending of Hoa didn’t make much sense and didn’t fit the ambiance of the rest of the game. I liked the twist the game took when the player’s character goes to the metal kingdom, but after that, it gets a little too melancholy and ambiguous for my taste.
I have a few interpretations about the meaning of the ending, which you can read below, but beware of spoilers:
When the character of Hoa is traveling through the spirit world and finds the robot that first saved her life and then seemingly took it away again (against its will), the achievement unlocked says “home”. This can imply that the character of Hoa woke back up after dying in the metal kingdom and started a new life with this robot that wanted to be different than its kind and help rebuild the world of nature.
My other (positive) interpretation is that the whole game was played while Hoa was unconscious. This interpretation comes from the fact that after you finish playing the game, you see a series of flashbacks. The scenes depict all the pieces of the story each kingdom’s leader told you throughout the game. Maybe the events of the game were never experienced by Hoa in reality. Perhaps she was battling between life and death and woke up in the robot’s hand, starting her new life after being saved – the last of her kind.
The negative interpretation of this game puts a damper on the game. It was my initial thought after playing the game. It appeared that after this whimsical adventure, your character just dies. So, I was pretty upset after finishing the game. It was so relaxing and was a wonderful experience. I was disappointed that the ending was so sad. However, after thinking about it and analyzing the events a little more, I came up with those two positive interpretations, which made more sense than my negative conclusion.
Either way, I wish the game had ended on a clearer note with 100% positive vibes, like the rest of the game. Overall, though, the game is enjoyable and I really loved playing it. I recommend it to anyone who wants to take a load off and hop into a land full of magic and wonder.
If you want to experience a game with mega feel-good anime vibes reminiscent of a Ghibli film, you can pick up the game right now for $8.99 on the PS4 store, or $14.99 on the Nintendo eShop. It is also available on Steam or Xbox. The PS4 price will go back to its regular price of $14.99 once their fall sale is over on December 1, 2021. They have had a few sales, though, so if you want to wait for another one, follow them on Facebook to stay up to date.
Did you play Hoa? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!