I’ve played a lot of horror games down the years and as with any genre of game, you get the good ones and the not so good ones. But for me, much like horror movies, I tend to get more out of a fairly mediocre horror game than I do out of a bad platformer, for example. With that being said, there aren’t many good things I can say about Hollow, which is a massive shame because I always felt like the game had massive potential, but it just fails to get a lot of the basics right.
You take up the part of a pilot, who visits an abandoned space station, and as you guessed, it is up to you to work out what has happened to everybody. As you also probably predicted, it isn’t entirely abandoned, because otherwise, this wouldn’t be a horror title, just merely a walking simulator. The story is fairly light which is pretty much standard for a horror game, the heavier details have to be sought after in the shape of optional files which you can find lying around. Fans of the horror genre, in general, will probably find that the story is quite below par or at the very least passable in that it doesn’t really stray too far from what you would expect. People who haven’t watched tons of horror movies or played lots of horror games will get a lot more out of the story, but even then you won’t remember it in years to come.
The game is played in a first-person perspective, with your character’s visor actually being visible when playing. This is actually quite a unique way of displaying the game and I can’t really recall many games doing this. Of course, games like Metroid Prime had effects such as being able to see Samus’ eyes reflecting on the visor if something flashed in close proximity, but it’s still different than what we have here. In Hollow, you can actually see smudges in certain areas of the screen and everything has a slightly grainy, or static, look to it. If you also look up towards lights, you can see it reflecting off your visor in a way that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t have anything over your eyes.
At first I thought that this was a great effect that has smartly been implemented, and some could argue that it is a great effect as it can add to the feel of the game, but for me, it actually started to bother me and I wished I could just go to a normal, clean look. I get that it’s almost trying to give off a sort of old-school video player look and it probably also hides a lot of the games visual shortcomings too, but in the long run, it doesn’t work as well as the developers hoped it would. You can also overlay a map onto your screen in real time which is both good and bad. Good, because it means you can see your location whenever you want and it moves along with you without needing to be paused, but bad because to get a proper view of it, you need to aim down slightly and it just doesn’t work as you can’t then properly see where you’re going. I don’t know why the map couldn’t have been placed in one of the corners of the screen so you can see both the map and the main screen at the same time.
Controlling your character is where Hollow probably lets itself down the most because it’s one of the basics that any game should get right. Reflecting on it, I’m still unsure whether this was an intentional design choice but the general movement here is so unbearably sluggish that after a short while you will get frustrated just like I did. It feels like a chore to move your character around and no game should feel like that. Even by pressing what would usually be the sprint button in other first-person games, you still walk the speed of a slug. When you don’t press the ‘walk a tiny little bit faster than before button’, you wouldn’t believe just how slow you move.
Combat is half decent, but again, it isn’t close to what you would hope it to be like. It’s easy enough to generally aim at enemies but it does feel still feel sluggish. Enemies don’t really react to attacks either, except for when you blow their heads off. In what should be one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game, just ends up being a little bit dull. Again, it isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t great. You are also able to use a melee kick manoeuvre as a last resort but it’s so incredibly unusable, clumsy and weak that it needn’t be included at all, to tell the truth.
With it being a horror title, you expect a few scares and you expect the atmosphere to be at a certain level. Hollow thankfully hits that level but doesn’t stray past it. There aren’t many times where the game is actually scary, but I must admit it got me a few times, which to be fair is a lot more than a few other horror titles I could mention that I’ve played down the years. The atmosphere is helped by decent sound design, you will hear a constant ambient noise throughout which helps set the mood and you will hear your cliché horror noises from time to time like clangs in the distant which will keep you on your toes. The voice acting is passable at best. It’s usually good when developers go that extra step and include full voice acting but only when it works and unfortunately it doesn’t work great here.
While the game runs quite well when playing docked, I noticed that as soon as I started playing in Handheld mode, the framerate noticeably dropped and the game certainly wasn’t as playable as it was on the TV. So I would recommend sticking to playing it docked as that is definitely the best way to play Hollow, without a doubt.
I have to say, a game like Hollow has so much potential and it could have been one the best horror games on the Nintendo Switch had some basic aspects had been right, such as the movement and combat. But what it ends up being is a game that doesn’t have many redeeming features or qualities. It’s too slow and lethargic, the display is a little off-putting after a while and it doesn’t run well playing in Handheld mode, which is a major feature of the Switch. If you’re looking to fill your horror gaming needs, put this down towards the bottom of the list.