Release Date: February 22nd 2018
Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £17.99 GBP
While Forever Entertainment have released a variety of games on the Nintendo Switch so far, from adventure games like Violett or evolution games like Sparkle 2: Evo, none so far have managed to bring the excitement and anticipation that Hollow did upon announcement. First person horror games are always an interesting prospect. What’s more exciting than being shocked and horrified as though it’s from your very own eyes? We’ve recently reviewed Layers of Fear which is also of the same ilk, but is it as good as what Juan thought of that game?
As far as the story goes it’s a pretty big part of the game I would say. You are a nameless pilot who has landed on the Shakhter-One, a mining facility orbiting Jupiter. While dazed and confused, your first steps into the huge, metallic installation are met with immediate trepidation. No lights, no signs of life and an alarm signalling that things have gone wrong.
As you make your way to the command centre to find out what’s going on you’re contacted via email by a mystery patron who guides your way. It’s not long until you’re told exactly what to do: turn the power back on in order to escape. And you will want to escape because the Shakhter-One has been overrun by demonic beasts that have wiped the ship of life.
The story is told via messages found laying around or emails and smaller interactions as there seems to be another mysterious survivor. I must admit even though Hollow didn’t present the most intriguing or horrifying story I’ve played, I was interested in finding out what would happen at the end and it like all good horror stories, it presents a decent twist or two.
As with any horror game the audio is really important. It’s supposed to build atmosphere and tension and thankfully the one found here in Hollow does. There are lots of creepy environmental noises, mostly stemming from doors opening and closing that you can’t see, radio chatter and creeks.
It’s all pretty good but I do think the audio levels aren’t quite mixed correctly. I think it’s quite loud compared to most other games and some elements can overbear others at times which is a shame, but not too detrimental to the experience.
There’s some voice acting in Hollow but I found it to be slightly below par if I’m honest. You’ll mostly be hearing the main character talking and he just lacks a certain something that would otherwise make him believable. I didn’t find it took too much away from the game, but it could have been better.
Visuals & Performance
Visually I think the game is okay for an indie game. Yes the environments and assets are reused a little too much, you’ll see many of the same things over and over again but it’s done with fairly decent style. There’s some pretty decent textures in the game. Naturally as a horror game it’s dark, really, really dark. Your flashlight helps somewhat but I often found myself squinting at the TV which is never the best situation.
There are tonnes of effects on screen, especially the very strong static which I think is trying to emulate old style videos. It’s incredibly grainy and does like nice for the most part but you can’t help but feel it’s trying to mask that this isn’t quite the spiffing looking game it is on PC. It’s definitely been paired back for the Switch release and in handheld mode, it’s really not the best. It can even be visually overwhelming at times, they’ve completely dialled everything up to 11 on this one, so much so that when the game was glitching out, I thought it was all part of the visual aspect.
I should warn you that Hollow is visually gratuitous. Not exactly in the horror sense (which is pretty tame) but in the form of nudity. Hollow is not suitable for a younger audience at all. Around the walls and on beds are nude photos of models with their breasts out. Now, I’m hardly the most prude person in the world, but even I found it completely at odds with the game. What is the point in them being here? It’s uselessly perverted. In a similar light, the enemies are all of the female variety with their breasts exposed. That doesn’t bother me since it seems like a stylistic choice but having nude pictures laying around is just weird.
Finally, the game doesn’t run smoothly, it seems to chug along at times and there are plenty of glitches in objects and situations. For example, one time it forgot to spawn enemies so I was standing there waiting for them to appear but nobody came, despite me dying the previous time from them. It was all kinds of awkward.
Hollow is a first-person survival horror game, no doubt a genre that will excite many of you out there. But please follow the rest of the review before you buy it.
There are three walking speeds in Hollow; slow, ungodly slow and what’s the point of even walking. Thankfully the last one is limited to when your character is talking out loud at the end of cutscenes and is fairly infrequent. The other two can be toggled between each other via a click of the left analogue stick. It’s almost painful how slow you walk and it honestly detracts from the experience. There’s nothing worse than knowing how far you have to walk, especially if you have to backtrack which can take an age. Not to mention if you get stumped by a puzzle and need to aimlessly walk around looking for answers. It’s just painful. You can understand why they would want you to walk slowly to build tension, but it just makes you groan.
Your nameless pilot will walk around the the environment, pick up notes and solve basic puzzles. Soon after starting the game you’ll pick up your first weapon which is used to blast the rather unvaried enemies that will attack you.
Being a purposely stiff game as per the genre, the combat is particularly unsatisfying. Aiming is tough and enemies can be relentless at times and things get really tight when ammunition is so scarce. If you have no ammo, you have no defence. Sure you have a kicking melee attack, but that does no damage at all and only pushes the enemy away. And even then you’ll be lucky to get away without taking damage because it’s genuinely feeble and judging the distance to use it is almost impossible at times. You will get hit! Running away is not much of an option thanks to your snail-like movement.
To go hand in hand with the lack of ammo is the fact that reloading presents a harsh lesson, especially when first playing the game. As any gamer worth their salt would do, I reloaded my weapon as soon as there was a clear moment to do so. But in this game, if you reload while you still have ammo in the chamber, you will lose it. Yes, it’s actually mirroring how it would work in real life, but it also made me unable to kill the first batch of monsters. I ended up having to outrun the last monster for a good 10 minutes before closing a door on it. With how slow the movement is in Hollow, that was not a joyous experience.
There are some puzzle to solve in order to progress to the next areas of the game or even power up one of the generators. These are generally simple but I did find a couple of puzzles relatively obscure. The first one was finding the code for a door, in which the clues were utterly useless, the second was a moving crates job which was far too clunky and annoying to do. They weren’t particularly satisfying to do overall.
Of course, how can I mention a horror game without talk about how scary it is? Well, in my mind, Hollow is not scary. Not in the slightest. The horrors that it tries to show you are tame at best. Jump scares are kept to a minimum and, even when they are present, they’re usually off camera as you’re generally looking the wrong way. The only thing vaguely creepy is the sound design but in all honesty I’ve been more freaked out elsewhere. The enemies are more laughable than scary and the overbearing static on the screen takes away a lot of the scariness, despite it looking cool.
Sadly the combination of all of these things together make Hollow a very hollow experience. Pardon the joke, but it’s true. It had a lot of promise for sure, but the execution just isn’t there at all. It’s all a little too predictable, too amateurish and it feels like it’s being held together with tape. It just doesn’t work for me. The combat needed to be better, there needed to be more enemy types and more satisfying puzzles. The dredge of walking from one place to another and backtracking will be a test of anyone’s patience. It’s just not enjoyable to play in the least. It’s actually hard to say that because you can see they are trying somewhat, at least in their initial intentions, but it seems they got to a point of development and sort of gave up.
At £17.99 or $19.99 you pretty much know what I think in this regard. The quality on offer doesn’t represent the high price tag, in fact I find that price almost laughably ambitious. While it may try to let you think it’s a game with a nice budget, it really isn’t. It comes across as fairly cheap and short. There are far better and lengthier games you could spend your money on. Do not buy this game at full price.
Held together with tape
Walking is way too slow