The short two-hour relaxing indie videogame, HOA, owes a lot to Studio Ghibli. The lush graphics and beautiful music were a direct WHISPER OF THE studio’s HEART. As gamers play a fairy exploring a PRINCESS MONONOKE worthy forest, they are tasked with capturing five butterflies per world to learn a new ability that will allow them to progress to the next.

This SECRET WORLD, minus ARRIETTY, is full of pleasant surprises. From forest spirits reminiscent of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and a clever coal mechanism that reminded me of the Boiler Geezer in SPIRITED AWAY.

I had two favorite sections in this game. One went under the sea ala PONYO for a jellyfish bouncing delight, and the other is the twisted ending that turns everything you’ve played before it into an ONLY YESTERDAY-like memory.

While the plot doesn’t pack the same emotional gut-punch of GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, it does soar and deliver light-hearted Ghibli in the same vein as getting a special package from KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE.

For $14.99 on Nintendo Switch, HOA falls somewhere between HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and CASTLE IN THE SKY on the Ghibli scale. And no need to worry, this it’s nowhere near the disastrous, EARWIG THE WITCH.

Aaron "Dobler" Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein is a Product Manager by day, ludicrous speed content consumer by night. He’s a LA Film School Alumni and TV Academy / Producers Guild of America member. Aaron is a proud stepparent and dad joke enthusiast.

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