Arriving on the shores of a grassy wonderland, Hoa puts you in the place of a small fairy on a big mission. What mission? That part’s a secret that you’ll uncover as you make your way stage by stage deeper into a magical world filled with wonder – you’ll wander your way through forests and oceans, picking up new powers as you go, and waking up the residents of your homeland to uncover what took place once upon a time.
The game is pure light puzzle platforming, with no combat or timed challenges to worry about. However, Hoa makes its platforming so pleasant that it doesn’t really need much else. I’ve thought of a million ways to start this, but no amount of words will do it justice: playing Hoa feels like stepping into a world of delight and magic. I can’t even count the times I found myself excited by a new feature or understanding how to move forward.
As flowers open to provide an extra step, and bugs come to help you reach new heights, it’s difficult not to feel enchanted. The gameplay isn’t all too challenging, but every once in awhile it takes some work to find your way through, and it never devolves into boring (honestly, the final section was a real challenge for me, but I’ll avoid spoiling any of the discoveries you’ll come across in your adventures). It also lets you focus on just playing the game, with minimal backtracking – a detail I greatly appreciated after years of running back and forth in games.
There is a backstory, albeit one that we don’t get to experience in-depth. Don’t get me wrong – I loved it. However, you won’t walk away with a full understanding of the hows and whys, as much as the single event that led you there. But what Hoa lacks in story, it makes up for in ambiance, and at the end of the day I think it’s better for it. Set against a beautiful soundtrack that feels perfect to play in the background of a soft, restful day, the game’s art is stunning, soft, and colourful. The lightness of the story lets the feel of a playable painting shine through. It also helps to leave the game feeling complete at the end. Hoa is a game that’s perfect to pick up on a quite afternoon when you need to unwind and just enjoy a soft adventure.
Overall, I don’t have a lot to more to say about Hoa only because it’s something better experienced than explained. If you’ve ever watched a Ghibli movie and wanted to step into the magical, nostalgic worlds on the screen, this is a perfect chance to dance through hand-painted environments and delightful puzzles. I loved every moment of my experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes relaxed games with a lot of atmosphere.
Interested? Hoa is coming to Steam, Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox on August 24th, 2021!
Order Up! is a weekly column featuring indie-focused reviews, news, or interviews! We like old games just as much as new ones and are always looking for something to check out. Have a game recommendation, a project, or a company you want to talk about? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @ArcanaChance