Review – Hollow 2
I can’t help but respect when a developer or a publisher decide to release a sequel to a poorly received game. One meant solely to prove that, yes, there is potential in that franchise to begin with, and such sequel is the proof to what happens when you learn from past mistakes. It takes a herculean effort for you to convince your audience to give such maligned series a second chance. Perhaps that was Forever Entertainment’s intention with Hollow 2, a sequel to a mediocre-at-best, pretty-bad-at-worst horror game released back in 2018.
If you don’t remember, or if you have never heard of Hollow, I don’t blame you. It just showed up and was quickly forgotten. It had potential, being a space horror game clearly inspired by the likes of Dead Space. It even had great sound design, something rare for a low-budget game on the Switch. Sadly, that was all that was worthy of praise in that flop, as it suffered from a range of typical issues found in early Switch third-party titles: poor visuals, terrible framerate, sluggish controls. I would have never imagined a sequel for such a title would be ever greenlit, but I started feeling (very slightly) intrigued once I saw the name of the developer behind Hollow 2: MegaPixel Studio.
Who’s MegaPixel Studio, you may be asking? Well, Forever Entertainment has stopped focusing on low-budget indies for a while, and somehow, has actually started publishing games based on forgotten Sega franchises. MegaPixel Studio was the team behind the Panzer Dragoon remake. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was a decent love letter to one of Sega’s most underrated franchises, which also signaled Forever’s strategy on releasing beefier titles with way more care than what they were churning out back in 2017 and 2018. Knowing that MegaPixel Studio was handling the development of Hollow 2 was enough to make me hopeful that, at the very least, the game would be better than the original. And it is.
Hollow 2 is a lot better than its predecessor because it barely tries to play and feel like it. The original game was a first-person survival horror that had you moving at a snail’s pace, and had you fighting enemies at an even worse pace. This sequel takes a more, let’s say, Aliens-esque approach when compared to Hollow‘s Alien. This is, first and foremost, an action game. A borderline arcade-esque first person shooter which, while still trying to provide players with a scary setting, has more in common with the likes of Doom 3 than Dead Space proper.
I don’t exactly know if there are fans of the original Hollow, and if so, if they will be disappointed with how un-horror-y this game is. This linear adventure is mostly focused on killing tons of creatures in small arena-like rooms or corridors with your vast arsenal of Doom-like weapons, then collecting their remains in order to afford health and ammo pickups whenever you reach a checkpoint. Every now and then, you are told to solve a simple puzzle, nothing too complicated, which is the closest Hollow 2 gets to resembling a classic horror game.
Now, even though I compared Hollow 2 to a Doom game, this is still far from being polished or as fast-paced as one of iD Software’s shooters. The framerate, the biggest offender in the original Hollow, is still one of the main problems in this title. You can clearly see the game does not run at an optimal framerate, not even reaching 30fps. At the same time, it is oddly… stable. It reminded me of a Nintendo 64 game: it ran at a suboptimal framerate, but kept such framerate throughout most of my playtime with it, to a point I could (begrudgingly) get used to it in portable mode.
The weapons at your disposal are varied and pack a punch, but the initial “pistol”, which boasts infinite ammo and a beyond overpowered charged shot, can already take care of most of the threats you’ll face along the way. I didn’t mind that at all; in fact, I was occasionally enjoying these combat sections, even though they were a pushover. You have a lot of health and armor in Hollow 2, so you’ll never feel like you’re facing danger. Resources aren’t scarce, and checkpoints are everywhere, where you’ll be granted with health regeneration and the opportunity to buy more ammo. Keep doing so until the game bores you.
Visually speaking, Hollow 2 isn’t ugly at all, with some impressive lighting effects and level design, but it is heavily hampered by a noticeably low resolution. Not to mention the framerate. The sound design is… weird. By no means is it bad, as the game features a ton of well-performed voice acting, but said acting is meant to resemble someone dear to your character, who just ends up sounding like a crazy ex-girlfriend who couldn’t cope with a breakup. Finally, the combat sections are plastered with dubstep. Yeah, you read that right, dubstep. We’re in 2021, and someone is still trying to bring the damn thing back. Let me be clear, the songs aren’t bad per se, but this is supposed to be, at the very least, scary. With combat sections featuring dubstep. You see the paradox?
The first Hollow was so bad that there was just no way a sequel could be worse. I will say that, somehow, Hollow 2 surpassed my expectations, but only because they were pretty low to begin with. Granted, it is not entirely bad, and can be enjoyed by space horror aficcionados, those craving for a Dead Space-esque experience on-the-go. Just bear in mind that this game is still severely flawed, suffering from a bad framerate and janky combat sections. Not to mention the overreliance on dubstep, which doesn’t fit at all with its horror premise. All in all, however, it could have been a lot worse.
The level design, lighting effects and monster designs aren’t terrible. The framerate is beyond subpar, but weirdly enough, stable. The resolution is clearly low.
Hollow 2 is more of an action game, a first-person shooter with slight horror elements, than an actual survival horror game. Its combat is not that bad, as aiming at monsters is much easier than how it was in the first Hollow, but its terrible framerate brings the experience down a lot.
Even if its voice acting is good, and its sound effects are decent, Hollow 2 puts a lot of emphasis on dubstep tracks being played during combat sections against space abominations. The songs aren’t terrible, but horror tunes, they are not.
Fun Factor: 6.0
It is still flawed beyond belief, and it basically ditched any semblance of horror in favor of high-octane action sections that don’t always hit the spot, but Hollow 2 is still a gigantic improvement over its pretty bad predecessor.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Hollow 2 is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Hollow 2 was provided by the publisher.