Dead Space 2.0?
Last generation, a new franchise entered the horror market: Dead Space. It was good. People liked it. Fast forward and we get a sequel, the accurately titled Dead Space 2. Finally, Dead Space 3 hits the shelves and whilst by no means a bad game, I think it was widely agreed that the image of the series had been confused. Skip forward some more and you’ll find Hollow, a title that seemingly wants to be the new Dead Space. It’s set in space and there are “dead” things that aren’t actually dead trying to get you. The major boxes are ticked so far, but is it any good?
Hollow released last year on PC for $19.99 and now for the same price on Nintendo Switch. Players will have to navigate an abandoned mining ship that is pretty close to Jupiter. As is customary for any Sci-Fi Horror it becomes abundantly clear that something just isn’t right when you land and something awful seems to have hit the fan.
Escape the Ship
As the protagonist makes his way through the ship it becomes clear that the main mission is to get the hell out of there. You’ll stumble upon a kiosk that lets you access email and some stranger is giving you instructions. It’s up to you to get the power back on and both of you to escape. A norm in the horror genre, the story is mainly told through notes and these emails. All in all the story is pretty generic and not that good, nothing stands out and it’s a pick n mix of sci-fi horror tropes. Religious lunatics? Check! Some kind of mutiny? Check. Dangerous alien chemical? Check. In fact all the questions posed in the story aren’t answered and as you finish the title you are prompted to wait for a sequel.
The ambience of the actual ship is well designed. It’s not particularly amazing, but it certainly gets the job done. Walls have posters promoting the company and their ethics. As you explore it does feel like a believable ship. The soundtrack and design compliment the exploration nicely, sending chills down the spine and helping with giving off a sense of isolation.
Fight or Flight
I’ll start by saying this: Hollow is ambitious for what the developers were aiming for and there are glimpses of a interesting title here, but ultimately the majority off the title falls flat. There aren’t a great deal of enemies in the game to mix up combat, neither are there that many weapons. I could’ve missed some, but from my count the game boasts four different enemy types and two weapons. There are some decent puzzles in here, but nothing that good or frequent to make it feel worth it.
Overall, the title seems to suffer from not knowing what it wants to be. With what I can imagine a more limited budget it would have been best to play off the horror part, but it seems to try to be a bit of an action game as well. There isn’t a lot of suspense when it comes to the enemies and exploring the ship, nor does the action ever feel so engaging that you want to get to the next firefight.
There are some things you expect when porting a high-end title to the Switch, including a graphical decrease and lower FPS count. The Switch version, from what I could gather from videos of the PC version, just isn’t great. Entering new locations may cause the game to stop as it loads and the framerate drops to a slideshow in some areas. On top of that, the lighting in the game is poor. The Switch version has this grainy filter to cover the textures I assume, but when contrasted with the PC version (which looks pretty good) it just made it hard to actually see what was happening.
Hollow also includes some of the weirdest design choices I have ever experienced, ranging from a bit odd to flat out annoying. One of the unusual, but not terrible things in the game is the map. It is so strange that it’s hard to describe. After a while you will get to grips with it, but why they didn’t opt for the standard design I do not know.
Enemies can attack during cutscenes. There aren’t many moments when this two instances overlap, but it caused me to die once. Then finally when I encountered the second type of enemy the game tells you to avoid it, but five minutes later you find yourself in a situation where you must kill this type of enemy or you can’t proceed and there is no indication that this is the answer.
There are collectible notes and tapes and I did miss some. There’s a hard mode, but I don’t think there will be much drawing you back into Hollow.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Hollow was provided by Forever Entertainment.