Welcome to Shakhter-One, a space mining ship built to gather resources from the atmosphere of the planet Jupiter. It’s clear that you are a pilot, but other than that you’re in the dark. You can’t remember who you are, or why you are there. As you start your journey through the different levels of Shakhter-One, it becomes apparent that something has gone very wrong. There appears to be no crew members alive, but somehow you are not alone…
The Nintendo Switch is having a strong month in terms of horror games; Layers of Fear, Outlast and now Hollow. But does Hollow have what it takes to stand beside those games? Let’s dive in. First of all, when I said earlier you’re in the dark, I didn’t just mean figuratively. You are literally in the dark here. Actually to the point where the first place I headed was into the game’s settings to crank up the brightness. Once that was done, I could see visually what the game had to offer. The game has this grainy visual effect throughout which I found really cool. Environments are claustrophobic and unnerving as you’d expect. Sound wise the game is mostly good too. The voice acting is decent, whilst crackling radios and handwritten notes scattered throughout convey sinister goings on and offer clues as to what the hell has happened here. The story is also solid, especially from around the 30 minute mark, where the narrative really starts to come together. So far, so good. But Hollow unfortunately has quite a few frustrating developmental decisions that really hinder your experience aboard Shakhter-One.
Firstly is your character’s lack of speed. I understand having to walk slowly in a horror game is more scary, but this is painfully sluggish. Honestly, my Grandad can walk faster than this guy and he’s dead. You can hit the toggle stick to speed things up a little, but even then he is still at a snail’s pace. Secondly, ammo is mostly hidden in cabinets and is fairly scarce too. If you run out of ammo whilst being attacked, you are screwed. You can’t run and find more ammo because your character is too slow, and you don’t have a melee option. You do have a kick, but this inflicts no damage to your demonic foes, it merely pushes them back for a second. It means you have no option but to close the game down and reload from your last save point. Which leads me onto my third niggle – the save system.
There is no auto-save here, with developers Forever Entertainment instead opting for an old-school manual save. You save the game when you come across computers, which you also use to receive emails. Don’t get me wrong, old school is cool and I understand the appeal. The problem is the location of these saves. Some of them are horribly placed in conjunction with the story. For example, near the end of the game, you take an elevator ride up to your final battle. During this you’ll sit through a loading screen. When you finally reach your destination, you then have a cut scene, and into the fight you go. If you die during this end fight (which is quite likely due to the amount of enemies), you then get sent to the Title Screen and when the game reloads, you are placed back before the Elevator ride. So to recap, every time you die at this stage, you will have to repeat the following: Title Screen ➡ Loading Screen ➡ Enter Elevator Code ➡ Loading Screen ➡ Cut Scene. It is incredibly frustrating and absolutely baffling as to why the save point wasn’t put in a more logical place. This is a fairly prevalent issue throughout. As are the catalogue of spelling mistakes in the game’s subtitles. But not as prevalent as the bizarre amount of pin-up posters placed around the ship. I wasn’t offended by any means, more just confused as to why they were there, as they appeared to have no relevance whatsoever to the story.
Hollow is short too. It clocks in at around 2 hours, which is fine, but the high price point doesn’t correlate with a 2 hour game. Don’t get me wrong, everything story wise is paced well and Hollow doesn’t outstay its welcome. But my current opinion on Hollow is that I would recommend waiting for a sale and a patch. All of the issues I stated above are not huge and easily fixable. I also want to applaud Forever Entertainment as they do appear to be taking feedback via their social media channels for a future patch which is really cool to see. And there is a lot right with Hollow – it’s creepy, intriguing and for the most part does what it says on the tin. But small, niggly issues kept multiplying during my playthrough and they accumulated into me feeling less scared and more frustrated, which is a real shame.
Hollow isn’t a hollow experience by any means, but it’s not yet a fulfilling one either. Check in again post patch and you’ll probably find your flight aboard Shakhter-One a lot more enjoyable.
Punk rating: 5.5/10