“Hollow” aims to fill the void left by absentees such as “Silent Hill” by giving Switch owners a survival horror fix alternative. Gameplay-wise, this is a survival horror game, through and through. You wander around a very, very dark, very creepy environment, trying to find out what happened to the crew of the Shakhter One, the ship you’re on. Can’t be anything good, as the power’s out and the place is a mess. The ship is quite large, but there’s a map to hand that you will use to navigate the different areas and accomplish goes. You’ll start out in the game docking with a space station in serious distress without too much of an idea of what’s going on. In the early phase, as you begin to orient yourself and find stray notes to lead you on your way, there is a pretty delicious level of suspense that then culminates with the reveal of the game’s first monster. This progression is well managed and it does inspire a nice feeling of dread. While there’s an attempt to maintain that same level of suspense and unease throughout, and in some sections it’s hard not to feel some degree of anxiety over what you may run into next, unfortunately repetition of the same very limited number of enemies does erode your interest level. As a warning there’s a degree of nudity in the game in the form of both the game’s distorted creatures as well as random pictures, and I believe those are no accident and relate to the game’s overall story, but it seemed appropriate to note.
There’s plenty to like, for sure: the presentation (though other outlets have not liked it), is right up my alley: a mixture of dark environments, grimy textures and 1980’s spaceship-of-the-future is a cocktail that I find very difficult to resist. The voice acting, while not great (and in some parts, technically off – including clipping –), complements the story nicely, and adds to the experience much more than it takes away from it.
When I played the game on PC I was actually unsure how it would make it over to the Switch at all due to how detailed it was an how it played with dynamic lighting. While the conversion definitely required sacrifices in terms of clarity and detail, overall I was surprised that I only had issues with noticeable slowdown when the action got intense with multiple enemies on-screen at once. Unfortunately, due to the fact that everything is a bit dark to begin with, but then as your sanity starts to go visuals degrade further (reflecting your state of mind) I would say playing it in handheld mode is not recommended. At times it was workable but I would then hit sections where I simply couldn’t tell what was going on well enough to make it work.
While I mentioned before that I’d consider the nudity a reflection on the nature of the overall story for the most part I wouldn’t say there’s much of a connection to who you’re controlling, the situation you find yourself in, or your goal. Perhaps it is in the nature of the notes early on that relay that this is all some sort of “game”, the redundant creatures you face, or even the opening lines in the game, but it’s tough to connect or care about what you’re doing.
The localization in terms of text, especially within the UI, is a mixed bag. There are simple terms such as “pick up” that are written simply as “pick”. This is a common issue with games that are made by teams whose primary language isn’t English and might bother some more than others. As a dual-language speaker myself, I found it charming rather than outright bad. It’s not an RPG after all, and I much prefer to have some UI terms slightly wonky on a survival horror game, than, say, have obscene language inserted into a supposedly family friendly RPG (I’m looking at you, Lacrimosa of Dana).
“Hollow” is no “Alien: Isolation”, but it doesn’t pretend to be. This is a budget title that hits way above its category, and, if you can look past some minor technical gripes, a good survival title that is worth picking up for fans of the genre.