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'Hoa' Review: Entering Into Goblin Mode

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'Hoa' Review: Entering Into Goblin Mode

Upon seeing a wayward gremlin float, 2D platform style, around a toadstool forest, I instantly knew that Hoa was going to be my jam. Its whimsical mood is evocative of Studio Ghibli's Pom Poko - indeed, the game's makers at Skrollcat Studio are upfront about their love of such movies - though the stilted length of this tale meant that, unfortunately, our goblin child protagonist didn't have the opportunity to blossom as they truly deserved. Whether that's because of its story, its level design, or its platforming mechanics, Hoa needed to give me something, a little more, to elevate it into greatness.

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Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author

The story is told mostly through the environment, though now and again you meet the "boss" of each area, who bestows a new platforming power upon you. As they do so, they reveal a little more about how you ended up so very far away from home. However, Hoa doesn't play out like many other platformers. There is no combat or boss fights in the true sense, no difficulty in that respect, the game's various pathways and vertical challenges providing the adversity.

Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
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Here lies the main issue. As Hoa begins there are five different areas you have to traverse, and while tonally different they offer many of the same challenges. The new powers you receive are fairly standard for the genre: double jump, the ability to push blocks, and to float in the air. From area to area, the game never becomes noticeably more difficult. In each level you find and collect five butterflies, a routine lacking in any challenge, and it's this box-ticking exercise that allows the boss of the area to grant you the new power. These insects are marked on the map, and there isn't any easy or more difficult path to take to them, should a player wish to challenge their prowess.

Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author

Where Hoa does get interesting is in its monochrome section near the end. Here a whole set of new mechanics are introduced: mirrored movement, rotating screens, backwards controls. These are all extra challenging not only because of how they work mechanically, but because they are rarely encountered in other platformers. Their rarity is what sparks delight. However, just as the intrigue is introduced, it is cruelly snatched away. A sunshine leant to us too briefly.

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Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author

Hoa doesn't do anything strictly wrong. It is not broken, or bad, or worse still boring. It's a delicately enjoyable time in a whimsical land, with a simple story of a child wanting to return home. The issue here is that it doesn't do much that's different, either. It's the kind of platforming you've seen in 2D games infinite times before, and you will likely experience again and again. It's short, it's sweet, and if you simply want to turn your brain off and not experience anything particularly new, it's not the worst path you could tread.

Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
Hoa / Credit: Scrollcat Studio, Author
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Pros: Gorgeous art style, exquisite platforming in the monochrome sections, good environmental story telling

Cons: Repetitive without giving anything new until the end, platforming mechanics are standard and add nothing new to the genre

For fans of: Gris, Thomas Was Alone, Limbo

6/10: Good

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Hoa is available now for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch (version tested) and PC. A Nintendo Switch physical copy was supplied by publisher, Numskull Games. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Scroll Cat Studio

Topics: Nintendo Switch, Indie Games

Georgina Young
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