I wouldn't define myself as a gamer by any stretch. I've had a Switch for a couple of years which I play periodically, generally I go through phases of playing a particular game for a while before taking a break from playing at all.
When I first got my Switch, Cuphead was on sale for about £10 from the Nintendo eShop, so I bought that and instantly loved it. The art direction alone is enough for me to enjoy it, but I enjoyed playing the game too. I didn't think I'd really find a game which hit in the same way. Then I discovered Hoa.
Spotify isn't a place I'd typically link with finding games but in this case, it's exactly how it started. I listen to lots of different types of music and playlists, including music from/thematically linked to/inspired by Studio Ghibi. A track from Hoa's soundtrack came on at one point and for some reason, it just resonated with me:
For a good while, I didn't even think to look-up Hoa. I just assumed it was an anime film or something. A few weeks ago, on my birthday, I randomly decided to Google it and discovered that not only was it a game available on Switch, it was also on sale for about £4. Of course, I jumped on it and immediately started playing it and, like Cuphead, instantly fell in love with it.
It's basically a platform-puzzle game. You play as Hoa, a little creature (possibly human, I'm not quite sure) who you navigate through levels made up, mostly, of forest or woodland environments. The puzzle aspect is mainly around figuring out navigating around or over obstacles, slowly picking up new skills along the way. Unlike a game like Super Mario, there's no real threat involved. There are occasionally robots which give you a kick but doesn't cause you any harm. You can't die in this game, you just sort of keep going.
Visually, it's an absolutely stunning game. Like Cuphead, every frame of this game is a work of art and removing the need to avoid villainous characters really allows you to just take it all in while you play. There's no need to rush anywhere, you can take your time wandering around any area of the game or even, as I have, just leave Hoa standing somewhere and just enjoy looking at the screen with a wonderful soundtrack playing.
Though it's a puzzle game, it's not mentally taxing. It's a very relaxing game to play, almost meditative in some ways. Each time I've played, I've found myself in a fairly present head space, focussed on enjoying the moment.
If there's one criticism I have for this game, it's that it's too short. I just want more of it. I'd love to see a follow-up at some point in future.