Saturday, March 3

Review: A Hole New World [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One of the risks and challenges for indie games going the retro route is how to adopt some classic elements of the look and feel of previous generations without bringing along aspects that are better left in the past. Of course injecting some modern sensibilities is also a key but most throwback games I’ve played have suffered from not carefully removing or minimizing mechanics I very much don’t miss (I’m looking at you knockback). A Hole New World obviously has its roots firmly in the 8-bit era with both great visuals and a chiptune soundtrack, but where it shines is in its blending of classic play with some elements that never existed way back when.


Playing the game as the Potion Master, and quickly accompanied by the fairy Fay, your weapons and their use immediately give the game a distinct feel. Rather than having a trusty melee weapon with its predictable and safe forward attack you’ll need to work with the various ways you can throw your potions. As you complete worlds you’ll thankfully begin to acquire potions with different properties and ways they’re used but in general this is a small but significant difference to most classics. With the help of Fay you’ll at least have a forward projectile attack but it is charged so you’ll generally want to perpetually have it charged and waiting as you move.

The most significant twist to the classic titles served to inspire A Hole New World comes from it turning the game on its head, in this case literally. When you see an open pit along your way what you’ll quickly find is that falling into it doesn’t kill you, it instead takes you to an alternative upside-down area that you’re also able to explore. While sometimes moving between these two worlds is used only for finding secrets, gems, and health in some of the levels you’ll actually spend a significant amount of time platforming, and even locked in a boss battle, from a completely different perspective. This amps up the challenge and gives the game some great variety, it’s terrific that it is used far more than as just a gimmick.


When it comes to issues what first comes to mind is the degree of challenge. While everything can be conquered through some practice and patience there are sections of the game that are downright punishing and will demand precision to get through. The checkpoint system helps a great deal to manage the pain of this but be prepared to die quite a lot and being sent back to the last one you passed. One reason for the difficulty is probably to help add some length to everything. Even with a steady diet of failure along the way most of the game’s 5 worlds can be conquered with persistence (varying depending on your skill level) in about an hour. However, once you beat the game an added Game+ option is unlocked along with Challenge and Boss Rush modes to help extend your time in this world.

While many times I find throwback titles like this to be tedious, failing to inject enough modern touches into classic gameplay styles, once I got rolling I found A Hole New World to be very satisfying. With some creative level layouts, a diverse set of enemies, and some memorable boss fights the developers behind it put very visible effort into giving you an incentive to forge on and get through the tough sections. If you’re itching for a mix of the old, new, and the unexpected A Hole New World is easy to recommend.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Looks and sounds terrific!
  • Multiple challenging and memorable boss fights
  • The upside down world is used brilliantly and fully

Cons:
  • Some areas are far more challenging than others
  • Major stretches upside down may be too much for some people