HOA is a title that poses a question about when a video game becomes art. Is there a new trend in gaming to put art before entertainment? Most games give us excitement, thrills, and explosions. But what if you just want to play something that doesn’t take much time. A game you can just enjoy for what it is. This is what HOA is all about. It doesn’t want to make you sit up and lean in, it doesn’t want you to overthink. HOA wants you to enjoy the experience as it slowly unfolds, it wants you to go on the journey.
HOA, released in August 2021 on download, has found a new lease of life in physical form courtesy of publisher Numskull Games. The story begins with you, playing as a little fairy. You have no idea where you are or what to do but there are lots of friends on hand to help. As you progress you start to learn what happened to the forest as well as new moves from giant beasts. There is a real spectacle on show weaved between the platforming action and light-touch puzzles of HOA’s gentle world.
The game’s developer, Skrollcat Studio, has taken great care in setting out exactly what they want you to experience. Every twist, every turn has been thought out and it is all wrapped in a canvas of colour and beautiful animation. It’s refreshing to play a game that is allowing you to take your time and take it all in. Many of the beautiful set pieces wouldn’t look amiss in a high-quality Japanese animation. You will find yourself stopping at times to look at the backgrounds and revel in their fairy-tale wonderment.
It is not just the artwork that is impressive, the orchestral score that plays throughout gives a real Disney film feel that delivers emotional tidal waves. It is a rare treat that the background music of a video game perfectly reflects what is happening on the screen. You may also have moments where you stop playing, close your eyes, and just listen. The music is incredible in HOA and it’s the kind of score that should be celebrated. The emotion it evokes, smoothly transitioning between calm and peril is excellent.
Another feature of HOA is its inviting gameplay, anyone from first-time gamers to seasoned pros will feel right at home. Even though your fairy has a few moves, nothing drifts beyond three buttons including the control stick. This is the perfect game to introduce new people to gaming or for those that want something easy to get into. HOA can be completed in a few hours so anyone that cannot put in much time will appreciate it can be enjoyed on a lazy afternoon. The length felt just about right and any more may have started to spoil it.
Not everything in the world of HOA is perfect however, a small amount of slow down reared its head during a later stage. It was not enough to spoil the game but did detract from the amazing set pieces unfolding. Also, a few puzzles were on the very easy side, it would’ve benefitted from harder puzzles towards the end. That being said, one of the great strengths of HOA is its level variety. From a forest to a factory you see some amazing places. The last level is particularly memorable and will turn your head, but needs to be seen for yourself.
From its lovely hand-drawn animation to its amazing music, HOA is a wonderful piece of gaming art that brings a different tone. It stands out as a fine example of creating an experience with a simple fairy-tale story and beautiful imagery. It will probably disappoint those looking for a deeper challenge and excitement but is perfect for gamers looking to sit back and take their time. It’s great to see fantastic indie titles like HOA get a physical release and platform fans should be adding it to their lists.
HOA can be purchased from Numskull Games now.