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Monday, 26 February 2018

Review: Hollow


Review: Hollow

In space, no one can hear you scream. Because it's space.. What are you even doing up there?



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Hollow
EEMU | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 26th February 2018

* Review Code Provided by: Forever Entertainment *







Investigate a derelict mining outpost and try to get out alive In MMEU’s new title, Hollow. Out now and available digitally on the Nintendo eShop currenty priced at £16.19, is this one giant leap for Switch or just a small step onto familiar terrain?

Alone and without a name, you land on the Jupiter mining facility Shakter-One only to discover trouble afoot. Mysterious noises echo down the empty metallic, litter-strewn corridors. Blinking computers covered in sticky notes, containing nothing but a series of diary entries are the only things available to help you try and piece together what has happened here. A voice broadcast over the loud-speaker makes you quickly realize that you are not completely alone, but are they friend or foe? Tasked with getting the station back into operational order by this mysterious voice, it soon dawns on you that you there are other, deadlier, entities roaming the installation, and that to stay alive and escape you may very well have to fight your way through whatever is waiting for you... hiding in the darkness.




Hollow Screenshot 1


Hollow is a first-person horror shooter that borrows more than a few thematic inspirations from the Dead Space series, containing all the survival horror tropes that you’d expect to accompany the genre. Opting for more of a visceral approach to its horror instead of simply providing jumps scares, the game delivers the occasional genuine nail-biting moments. The title is a fairly short affair with around 1.5 – 2 hours playtime; this is stretched out to this length simply due to the fact that, even when performing a flat-out run, the main character moves horribly slowly. While this does help to build tension somewhat when coupled with some well-timed audio cues, getting lost or attempting to backtrack to find more supplies becomes frustrating quickly.

Topless women appear to play a leading role in Hollow, whether it is the hidden pages of nude magazines that the game tasks you with obtaining or the topless cast of demonic females that are hell-bent on your demise throughout your journey across Shakter-One, developer MMEU seem fully committed to this bizarrely recurring theme.

The game features the use of both melee and projectile-based sci-fi weaponry, though with the latter proving much more effective in dispatching the hordes of half-naked enemies. Ammunition and health pickups are limited requiring you to check every nook and cranny as you explore the ship. You are provided with an on-screen mini-map which can be toggled on and off at any time, this map will pulsate when you are close to a pickup which is helpful when reserves are low though is cumbersome to navigate and slows down the overall pace of the game considerably.

Puzzles are light on the ground in Hollow with the game consisting of 3 or 4 in total. The bulk of gameplay consists of moving through corridors, exploring the ship and clashing with small groups of one or two enemies at a time, before being pushed into an arena-based encounter where you will inevitably deplete the majority of the ammo you have been collecting up until that point. This loop continues several times over the course of the short story.




Hollow Screenshot 2


The games audio does a fantastic job of instilling fear where required and raising the tension by using well-placed bangs, knocks, scrapes and groans that send your eyes darting around the screen and your character spinning in panicked circles, checking to ensure that somethings not creeping up behind you.

Utilising a grain filter for that movie like aesthetic, the games dark colour palette of blacks, greys, browns and oranges blur into a into a muddy mess when playing directly on Switch’s the 6.5” screen, making it difficult to differentiate between run of the mill background objects and those items of interest, requiring you to repeatedly load you on screen map every few paces to determine whether or not there are any elusive ammunition or health pickups in the vicinity. This issue isn’t as prevalent while playing in Docked Mode, with the ambient lit visuals appealing and definitely the way the game should be experienced.

Unfortunately, during testing, it was discovered that the game appears to have trouble loading frequently and at specific points, usually directly after an in-game cutscene. Attempting to backtrack after one of these caused the game to freeze, leaving the audio playing for periods of up to 15 seconds before it manages to buffer in the rest of the scene. While the game does manage to find its feet again after these hiccups, those with little patience may find this reason to switch off altogether. One other more serious issue encountered with this bug was that if you saved your progress immediately after a freeze and then reloaded the game, the meshes that were created from the in-game cut-scenes reappear motionless wherever they were previously spawned in for the initial cut-scene. This happened on to us on multiple occasions. It’s it likely that developer MMEU will find a way to patch out these problems, but with them occurring frequently and with the first occurrence within the games first 10 - 15 minutes of play, NintendoPlay felt that the issue was serious enough to include in this review.




Hollow Screenshot 3


There’s definitely a decent atmospheric sci-fi horror buried deep under a collection of questionable design choices and underdeveloped code. Revisiting a few of the serious issues that plague the title, as well as including a quality of life update to smooth some of the rougher edges would make it easy to recommend Hollow to anyone looking for a scare or two. Until that point, however, Hollow remains a terrifying but sad story of untapped potential.




FOR THE WIN OR FOR THE BIN?



+ Fun and scary title while it lasts.
+ Good audio direction.

- Contains some serious bugs.
- in-game map is cumbersome to use.
- Not enough enemy variation.
- Handheld Mode looks graphically messy.

Verdict: Average - It'll just about do



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