If you want a game to calm you down rather than rile you up, Skrollcat Studio believes they may have just the thing in their relaxing platformer, Hoa. Is this a short-and-sweet trip worth your time and a bit of your cash? Time to find out in our Hoa PS4 review.
Hoa PS4 Review – Hello Brightness My New Friend
Upon first booting Hoa, the most obvious thing to note is the bright color scheme of the world. The titular Hoa is a fairy who wears a red sleeveless cloak, and she has some sort of a hook at the top which she can use to grab onto certain objects at various times. She has no attacks to speak of, though she does gain an ability to slam into the ground, which is only ever used to bounce off of enemies and leaves. We join her adventure as she has arrived on her home world via a leaf boat. The story is told through one-sided conversations with NPCs and “boss” characters. It seems she is looking for a friend who helped her escape some nasty robots when she was a young fairy.
The world that Hoa finds herself back in is a beautiful, hand-painted rendition of a handful of locations, such as forests and caves. There is even an underwater section, but unlike another platformer there is no risk of drowning here. The artwork is impeccable, like a painting come to life, with parallax backgrounds also full of creatures moving around or simply watching you from afar. It’s a shame, then, that the game only lasts a few hours (most will complete it in under five), because seeing extra locations would’ve been a treat.
Hoa is a platformer, and nothing else. You start with just a jump ability, but after collecting five butterflies in each location and speaking to an area boss, new abilities become unlocked including a double jump, short flight, ground slam, pushing objects, and a double jump. Most areas contain puzzles which involve newly-learned abilities mixed with timed movement. Some platforms are living creatures, like ladybugs, which is a great touch. The only real enemies encountered in Hoa are these little squeaky, derelict-looking robots which can kick you. They do no damage, nor can they be damaged, so while they’re still not existing in harmony with nature, at least they are not making things worse!
Hoa Review - Tranquil Beauty (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
Hoa PS4 Review – Must Be Heart To Be Believed
The soundtrack for Hoa is an original creation, played by an orchestra as opposed to synthesized music. It’s very piano-forward, and nearly always peaceful. This doesn’t mean it’ll put you to sleep. Indeed, the general mood is lighthearted, fun, and cheery. I would absolutely add it to my playlist that includes the likes of Final Fantasy orchestral scores. The whimsical nature of the soundtrack matches perfectly with the visuals and non-violent gameplay of Hoa.
A couple of game-related issues show up with Hoa, but thankfully none of them are deal-breakers. A platinum trophy is available, and most players will have all but two trophies wrapped up by the time they finish one playthrough. Reading the descriptions ahead of time will help, because although there is nothing to collect beyond the butterflies needed to progress the story, certain things must be interacted with enough times in order to trigger the two less common trophies. If you miss out on earning those trophies by the time the credits roll, there is unfortunately no way to choose a chapter of the game to replay. Picking the “Continue” option after beating Hoa results in the whole thing starting over again. Though, with such a short playtime, it’s not such a bad thing to revisit this beautiful world. The game engine also stutters whenever it loads in a cutscene, or the player transitions to another screen. Since the game is so low-action, it’s not a big deal, but it is annoying to see. Thankfully, the peaceful soundtrack plays unfettered by such stutters, and everything moves right along within a few seconds.
Hoa is a wondrous adventure that can easily be consumed in a day. It’ll make you forget about your troubles as the soundtrack lifts you up. Even its climax isn’t particularly intense, but the last level is a great change of pace. Though it lacks some of the modern features we take for granted these days, perhaps part of the charm is randomly running through the whole thing again so that you can be reminded of simpler times, when games didn’t ask you for more money with flashing ad banners for the latest season pass or premium skin, or fail to even start because of a service being offline. There are longer games priced at $14.99, but none are this pleasing to the senses.
Hoa review code provided by the publisher. PS4 Version 1.00 reviewed on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.