Saturday, February 24

Review: Hollow [Nintendo Switch eShop]

To this point the Switch hasn’t had any indie horror titles that have delivered a very positive experience. Either technically flawed or failing to deliver more than some light thrills and chills it has been tough being an indie horror fan on the system. Now we have Hollow, a game that made serious waves at its announcement, but then got a somewhat tepid response on PC even though it was visually quite impressive. Playing it now on the Switch, while it may be the most visceral and action-oriented survival horror title on the system that isn’t to say it isn’t without its flaws.

You’ll start out in the game docking with a space station in serious distress without too much of an idea of what’s going on. In the early phase, as you begin to orient yourself and find stray notes to lead you on your way, there is a pretty delicious level of suspense that then culminates with the reveal of the game’s first monster. This progression is well managed and it does inspire a nice feeling of dread. While there’s an attempt to maintain that same level of suspense and unease throughout, and in some sections it’s hard not to feel some degree of anxiety over what you may run into next, unfortunately repetition of the same very limited number of enemies does erode your interest level. As a warning there’s a degree of nudity in the game in the form of both the game’s distorted creatures as well as random pictures, and I believe those are no accident and relate to the game’s overall story, but it seemed appropriate to note.

In terms of the action at the core Hollow is a shooter, though this is more of a detail and means to survive than a precision-based feature. Movement on all front in the game is a bit sluggish. Whether this is connected to performance concerns with the game engine, a deliberate mechanism to slightly extend playing time, or even as a matter of taste I can’t say but it is impossible to ignore. It is this slow rate of speed that pretty well necessitates that you kill the enemies you’ll face, generally requiring a headshot to do more than knock them down, because evading them simply isn’t practical. The weapons you pick up thankfully have ample ammo distributed throughout the game, be sure to look for the yellow boxes they can be in or sometimes littered around on the floor. One key feature that will help you find what can be picked up is the map, which will display most items you can grab to help ensure you don’t miss any. As you encounter new situations there are some cases where you’ll absolutely need to sneak around but thankfully this isn’t very often. Some puzzles that are peppered in here and there range from basic in the case of turning on power stations to a bit obscure in the case of a password in one specific case to get through a door.

When I played the game on PC I was actually unsure how it would make it over to the Switch at all due to how detailed it was an how it played with dynamic lighting. While the conversion definitely required sacrifices in terms of clarity and detail, overall I was surprised that I only had issues with noticeable slowdown when the action got intense with multiple enemies on-screen at once. Unfortunately, due to the fact that everything is a bit dark to begin with, but then as your sanity starts to go visuals degrade further (reflecting your state of mind) I would say playing it in handheld mode is not recommended. At times it was workable but I would then hit sections where I simply couldn’t tell what was going on well enough to make it work. While I mentioned before that I’d consider the nudity a reflection on the nature of the overall story for the most part I wouldn’t say there’s much of a connection to who you’re controlling, the situation you find yourself in, or your goal. Perhaps it is in the nature of the notes early on that relay that this is all some sort of “game”, the redundant creatures you face, or even the opening lines in the game, but it’s tough to connect or care about what you’re doing.

While it is obvious the effort behind Hollow is there the net result, for the most part, comes up short. Without question people who are thirsting for a horror title that at least has some action and gore will probably find it worthwhile, willing to overlook its various flaws, but from a more mainstream perspective it’s a tough sell. The game’s conclusion promising more in the form of a sequel can hopefully point to a sophomore effort that’s a bit more varied and refined but this first outing is unfortunately tough to love.

Score: 5.5

  • The best action-oriented horror title on Switch… though it has next to no competition
  • Some creepy visuals and tense moments
  • Visually ambitious

  • Overall, whether from performance or choice the pacing of movement is undoubtedly slow
  • The dark lighting and muddiness of the visuals as your sanity wanes makes it tough to play in handheld mode
  • The repetition of backtracking and too little variety in enemies makes it drag
  • Hard to be engaged with your character and their situation