How many times have you picked up a game and immediately felt yourself fall in love? It’s one of those feelings which only comes once in a blue moon, but once you know, you just know. For me, Hoa was nothing but instant infatuation. There is something so genuinely special about it, and whether that’s because I grew up on the outskirts of the forest or if the game reminds me of Studio Ghibli marathons with my older siblings, I have found myself picking it up time and time again at every chance I get. I can’t seem to get enough of it, and I’m sure if you picked it up you would feel the same.
There is no way that I could possibly stop myself from pouring my heart into this review. Hoa is undeniably one of my favourite games, and I’m not just saying that for the sake of selling the game to you. It’s an unforgettable, breathtaking experience for any forest dweller like me. So if you want to find yourself bouncing around alongside the bugs, then pay close attention. In my many years of playing games, I have never experienced something that has had such an effect on me.
Grow through what you go through
At first glance, Hoa is obviously a beautiful game. The style follows something similar to Studio Ghibli, so it’s hard to believe that it was created by a small team of developers. It is clearly a game filled with time, passion and love for both the gaming industry and the natural world. You spend your time within the game jumping around leaves or rocks meeting a whole cast of critters along the way. The most important thing to remember is that everyone is there to help one another. Every element of the natural world provides a domino effect of assistance, and their main goal is to keep you, Hoa, safe.
Despite the game being mainly focused on you discovering your history as Hoa, there is far more depth to it. You see the subtle loss of the natural world to industrialization. The forests slowly become dominated by tiny evil robots, putting you and your fine bug eyed friends at risk. It’s your job to prevent this overwhelming consumption of woodland, but by doing so you put your life at risk. As you progress through the game, you learn that the main guardians of each biome were responsible for keeping you safe. So the least you can do is repay the favour. These guardians are unlike any other I have experienced in my many moons gaming. Compared to our little fairy they are monstrous, but I still want to give them a massive hug. I absolutely adore the character design in Hoa, thus encouraging my endless praise of it.
At first your adventure may seem simple. There is only so much depth that can come to a game following one single idea. Get from point A to B. But Skrollcat Studios have made this steadily paced journey far more compelling by introducing us to such a lovable cast. They speak to us in a way which makes us feel encouraged and loved. Which is lost in a world of mass produced games. There are hearts poured into Hoa, much like mine in this review.
The whole experience is encouraged by how smooth the game looks and runs as well. If things were blocky or laggy, your attention would slowly drift from the story at hand. But luckily we get to enjoy this game in its rawest form, first time. It’s the kind of game you can sit and play to completion in one sitting and still want to finish and pick it up again. I struggle to do that these days. Whether it’s because my attention span isn’t quite what it used to be, or if it’s due to the tense nature of video games nowadays, but I could play Hoa until I’m blue in the face and still not get bored of it.
I believe that I hold this game so dear to my heart since it shows the genuine fears our world faces. Making it easy to understand and accessible for all ages. It’s painfully true. We are losing huge areas of natural beauty to the production of factories and the industrialization for our own guilty pleasure. I feel honoured to be able to relate to Hoa, having experienced genuine natural beauty for myself in real life. Let alone getting to revisit it in game. Hoa is a perfect representation of the current fate of our natural world, and it shows us that without having to spell it out. So it’s about time we actually sat back and listened.