Version tested: iPad
I am not what you would call co-ordinated - the very idea of doing two things at once makes me cross-eyed. And yet with Finger Hoola I have discovered a love of confusing myself to soothing background music. It's an odd game that hits all sorts of familiar receptors, yet doesn't do a single familiar thing.
The clue's in the title, of course, and Finger Hoola's central interaction involves your whirling big hula-hoops around the screen using one and later two fingers (things start off slow). God knows why someone thought this was a good idea, and yet it turns out to be one of the most relaxing, and very occasionally fraught, uses of a touchscreen yet. There's little to say about the motion of the hoops beyond that they feel right, looping slowly around a steadfast digit and careening wildly when it starts doing the same.
What do you do with them? There's a weird hybrid of a pan-pipe and a spirit level in the middle of the screen, and the speed of each hoop's rotation moves a dinky little platform up and down either side - faster is higher, slower is lower. Each stage splits the central column into different levels, and these segments light up in sync with the background music, adding their own notes to it as your platform reaches that section and (hopefully) stays there. It's this that's the key to Finger Hoola, as you tend to either dramatically overshoot, zipping through the section and blasting out the other end before the note's played, or bob up and then bottom out before time.
Learning to play is incredibly simple, but playing well I still haven't mastered. You hit it at times, controlling the rotations and speed with such fine dexterity that the little platforms ease through the notes, chiming along in perfect harmony with the soundscape. There are 18 levels of increasing complexity to work through, but though Finger Hoola becomes more challenging it never once threatens to tip over into frustration - this is an experience to be played and savoured, rather than dashed through to completion.
Originality can be an albatross, sadly, because it's all well and good to say that if you like finger hula-hooping and you like ambient (as opposed to rhythm) games, give this a try. But who'd say yes to that? Before Finger Hoola, not me. It's a strange and unusual thing, at times feeling so natural you wonder whether it's a game or a toy - the sign of an interface and idea taken to exactly the right length. A chilled-out and peaceful challenge, quite unlike anything else around, Finger Hoola is just lovely.
8 / 10