#REVIEW: Hoa (PS5)

I haven’t written a game review on here in a while, mostly because I’ve been confining most of my gaming to my YouTube channel, but I just finished Hoa last night and I feel like this one deserves a little bit more of a push. The Let’s Play isn’t going to run for a few weeks– the current game I’m playing is going to wrap up on the 30th and there’s a whole other game I want to play before Hoa runs, but I picked it up on sale and more or less on a whim– at $4.95, I’m willing to play ten minutes and decide I made a mistake– and it’s absolutely fucking delightful, and if you’re any kind of gamer at all you owe it to yourself to check this one out. It seems to have launched on basically every available system, so you don’t even have to have any particular device to play it.

Hoa is a platformer/puzzle game, only about two and a half hours in length– it will run five episodes when I stream it– and all of the art assets are entirely hand-drawn. It is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish, as you move through (mostly) naturalistic, wooded settings, interacting with fish and insects and other forms of wildlife along with the occasional robotic enemy. The game is divided into five or six zones, and the progression is pretty linear– you collect five butterflies in each level and then turn them in to … well, not a “boss,” because the game doesn’t have any combat at all, but a large denizen of the level, who gives you a new movement ability and sends you on to the next area. There is a story, but it’s kind of bare-bones until all the reveals come at the end, so I’m not going to spoil anything.

This is not a challenging game, and I don’t think it’s meant to be; it’s one of the few games I’ve played where I really feel like relaxation was one of the goals of the game designers, and the piano soundtrack (while occasionally a bit too loud) is just amazing. This is a great game to just play through and chill to, and it’s one of the very rare games where I feel like trying to speed-run it might be fun.

What pushes this game into territory where I’m raving about it is how it handles the ending. There is a big chase scene that is actually handled as a cutscene, which took me by surprise, but then the game does something completely unexpected once the game ends, and the way it handles revealing the parts of the story that had been opaque through endgame cutscenes is really impressive. This was a good game until the last half-hour or so and then shifted into something entirely more notable at that point, and I strongly suggest you play it yourself before watching me do it. It’s a steal at $4.95, and I wouldn’t have felt bad at all if I’d paid the full price. Definitely check it out.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

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