And Happy Other Holidays from your good pal, Ryan.
As a Xmas gift to all my loyal reader, here’s a video game review that I wrote in November but didn’t ever get around to proofreading or posting. Enjoy!
Once October rolled around, my plan was to put any games I was currently playing aside and focus on more spooky fare. Then I continued to spend most of my gaming time on Picross games and Monster Hunter anyway. Because I am incorrigible.
I did manage to mash a few spooky games in anyway (see the Monthend Wrap-Up for deets), and one of those games was Hollow. This is a first-person shooter with a sci-fi horror theme, and if I had to review it in a single sentence, it would be this:
What if Dead Space was kinda crappy?
But that’s selling Hollow short. It’s not great, but it’s a fairly tight little experience that won’t cost you more than a couple hours.
Let’s start at what matters most: the controls are a little bit off. Though it might be more accurate to say that moving around the game world doesn’t quite feel right. Your guy moves very slowly, and even his run speed would be the regular walk in most other games. More importantly, his turn speed is ridiculously slow, which is a mere annoyance while exploring, but can make combat significantly more difficult than it should be. My kingdom for a quick-turn. Lastly, he also has this insanely exaggerated head-bob while moving that continually made me think he was drifting to the left. It’s not a real problem, but still annoying.
Combat seems like it may have actually been an afterthought. There are exactly three monsters in the game, and only two guns. The controls suggest that the guns have a primary and secondary firing mode, but both buttons seemed to do the same thing for each gun. The normal enemy does nothing but hobble directly toward you and attacks when in range. Sometimes they randomly stop advancing for a moment, perhaps because they forgot what they were doing? You can blast arms off these monsters, but it doesn’t affect them at all. Only headshots register as anything more than simply taking a hit. The big monsters literally skip back and forth until they see you, at which point they slowly barf out projectiles at you. They take about a thousand shots to kill, so you’re better off completely ignoring them, except for the one time you have to kill one to progress. The last monster is a flying thing that will attach to your head an immobilize you briefly if you get too close. It doesn’t do any damage, and there are roughly five of them in the entire game, most of which are in places without any other monsters.
Regarding the game’s world and plot, you’re set on a derelict space station above Jupiter. You have no memory, of course, aside from some brief flashes of some traumatic past. There is no-one left alive here but you, and apparently some donkus sending you e-mails that give you ominous warnings and guide you to your next objective. Eventually you find monsters, who are mutations of half the crew, and murdered the other half. There are also sub-plots about a religious cult on board, and how the atmosphere of Jupiter was getting people stoned out of their mind and turning them into cannibals. Presumably one of these things is what turned people into monsters. I don’t really know where that all went because I only found like half of the collectible files.
So Hollow is a little janky and the plot is mostly Dead Space. But there’s a deeper issue here. See, the regular enemies are mutated humans, and they were all women. All that’s left of their human forms are their heads and boobs. The large enemies? They’re just stacks of boobs on stilts. And the only collectible items in the game are a series of pin-up posters, all of which feature ladies in various states of undress, many with exposed boobs. Non-collectible versions of the same posters are plastered all over the walls throughout the game, too. There’s definitely a theme here, and the theme is how weird it felt to be playing a game on my Switch that was so laser-focused on tits.
But seriously, I have to wonder what that’s all about. Part of the main character’s traumatic past is a break-up with his girlfriend, so I wonder if the developers meant to use that trauma as an angle to influence what kind of horrors he’s seeing. You know, like in the Silent Hill series. Except they really missed the mark in Hollow, since there’s no overt explanation of what’s going on, and not enough (easily accessible) subtext to link any of the story elements together. It all just comes off as developers who were a little too horny and couldn’t help but mash as many boobies into their game as possible.
Long story short, Hollow seems like it might be a little misogynistic.
The spelling and grammar in this game are atrocious. Typos happen, and I usually don’t come down too hard on them, but there is at least one misspelled word in basically every sentence. Spaces are often missing after periods. Some sentences make no sense. The small amount of spoken dialogue often doesn’t match up to the subtitles, probably because the voice actors were native English-speakers and decided to go off-script. They made the right call. I understand that the developer is of some manner of European ethnicity (Polish, I think?), but they probably could have funneled a few more dollars into having someone do at least one edit.
And speaking of technical issues, Hollow is a nightmare in that regard. Slowdown is rampant, load screens are a little too long, and the game will often have to pause to buffer in new areas if you move between areas too quickly (relatively speaking). There are also a number of glitches that hurt the experience. Nooks that you can jump into that you can’t jump out of. Buttons that aren’t always as interactive as they need to be. Monsters that spawn halfway in a wall. An elevator that still won’t work even after you’ve acquired the elevator key. Junk like that. Saving often isn’t a measure against getting killed, but rather a measure against the game not working properly and forcing you to reload.
Lastly, when you finish the game, you get a very anticlimactic ending cutscene. What happens after that? A black screen with text in massive letters that reads “Want more answers? Wait for Hollow 2!” and then the credits roll. Wow. Just… wow. I’m pretty sure that’s the absolute worst way to lead into a sequel. Especially since the story and ending are so vague that you don’t even really have the questions. I was certainly not left wanting more of any of it.
To wrap it all up, I didn’t hate Hollow. Sometimes I found myself meandering aimlessly because the game isn’t good about providing direction, and the combat wasn’t exciting in the least, but I was trying my best to enjoy the ride despite its faults. At the very least, I liked exploring around the spooky, abandoned space station, because I almost always enjoy exploring around spooky, abandoned places. It’s just that they couldn’t quite seal the deal on telling a compelling (or unique) tale. I was coasting on the “thrill” of the environment, while everything that populated it was varying degrees of disappointing and/or sexist. I really can’t come up with any reason why you should bother with this one, unless you absolutely need to play something on your Switch that -if you squint really hard- vaguely resembles Dead Space.