It’s rare where I pick up a Nintendo Switch game and marvel at the graphics. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, those are works of art, but they’re triple-A titles. In this scenario, I’m focusing on the indie title you can pick up on the Nintendo eShop, and in this case, it’s Hollow by Forever Entertainment. I won’t say I’m blown away by the graphics as this generation of consoles have certainly raised the bar, but for the Switch, I was really impressed with the presentation of Hollow, both the visuals and the sound production too.
What’s it all about? It’s not particularly unique. You’re stranded on a mining ship in space, seemingly the only survivor, and try to comprehend your surroundings and understand what has happened to the crew. If you’re familiar with the film Event Horizon, Hollow gives a little nod to that as an influence and any other film in space while in isolation. From very early on, there are indications that this is related to a cult, and as you explore, you find more evidence of what’s happened onboard the Shakhter-One.
Hollow Be Thy Name
First impressions count, and Hollow has the wow factor. I don’t want to be led by how a game looks, but this is amazing. It’s not just the actual graphics themselves but also the effects that are applied, such as noise filters and great use of lighting. Immediately, I was immersed in the world and keen to explore. Not knowing much about yourself or what has happened in the vessel during your apparent slumber, you find that the power is out, and you need to switch it back on again. Throughout are scattered notes from someone seemingly there to help you. Quite convenient as they’re always one step ahead of you. I took my time as I expected jump scares; there are, and this gave me time to get accustomed to the logistics of the ship.
You have an onboard map that overlays on the screen in front of you. It looks very cool, but I didn’t find it remotely helpful and started to wander, not knowing where to go or interact with anything. An early introduction to one of the enemies you encounter, a great character design, in my opinion, made me realise that this was going to be a tough game. At that stage, I was only armed with my boots and a mediocre kick.
Longing for Human Interaction
And that’s about it. The ambience is spot on, and as I keep swooning about, Hollow is one of the best looking Switch games I’ve played. But, the gameplay doesn’t match the presentation. I found that moving around felt sluggish, objects started to be irritating obstacles, and it became quite apparent that the visual magic wand had disguised some quite dull gameplay.
You’re trying to piece together what has happened on the ship. To do that, you need to find notes scattered as well as interactive objects. Credit to the production, interactive items merge so well into the background that it is non-distracting. But in a game, this is a fundamental flaw. You have to whack up the gamma to see anything, and that defeats the point of the lighting effects. I literally went from “Woo – look at that!” to “FFS, where am I supposed to be going? Why doesn’t he run? Where are the enemies?”.
I don’t mind if it’s narrative-driven. There are plenty of alternative FPS games on the Switch, such as Bulletstorm: Duke of Switch Edition, so I’m cool with following a good story, but I need gameplay too. Alternatively, I’ll go and watch the Alien films again or play Dead Space for the umpteenth time. Hollow reiterated my position as a father/teacher/adult: “X has so much potential, but they don’t apply themselves”. This is Hollow. So much potential and just squandered on poor gameplay, controls and appeal.
Is Space Worth It?
When the game was starting up, there was a screenshot of what the controls were. Most of the buttons are from a standard FPS layout, but the majority of the time you don’t need them as there’s not enough going on. You will spend most of your time looking for clues, retracing your steps and attempting to shoot the mutants with sluggish reflexes.
I really wanted this to be great as when I started this review, I was reflecting on my first impressions. Hollow has been sitting in my backlog for a while. There was an ounce of regret that I hadn’t played this sooner, but after 20 minutes or so, I realised why the price was low and that it hasn’t had the most glowing testimonies. Based on the current price, I want to say just buy it and make your own opinion. I’m generally very positive about reviewing games, and I appreciate what has gone into the development and can see where they have spent their time on a game. With Hollow, the budget went in the visuals, and the gameplay and movement were an apparent afterthought.
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 24th May 2019
Do you agree with our review of Hollow? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.