Originally created for the Write A Game Challenge, The Hollow is a spooky fairy tale told as a visual novel. In the story, you take on the role of a huntsman whose child, Molly has disappeared from the brush she was playing in. As the huntsman, you must search the woods for her, meeting curious creatures and facing difficult moral decisions.
Since the joy of a visual novel in in seeing how the plot unfurls and how your choices determine how things will end, I will end my story summary here and focus on the other aspects of The Hollow that make it such a fun little experience. First off I have to highlight the game’s brevity. This makes sense as the game was originally created for a jam/challenge, but I personally really appreciated the sensible half hour experience. The atmosphere created in the opening wasn’t diluted by too many encounters or plot twists and I wasn’t kept up until 2 in the morning waiting to find out what happened.
The atmosphere I speak of is the result of a brilliant marriage being Tom Martin‘s lyrical writing, the haunting score by Zephyr Nova and the stylish yet familiar art of David Fortin. Each part supports the other beautifully, and while there isn’t any animation to speak of, the art and music bring the characters and setting to life on their own.
Despite being a very linear story, Martin takes care to make sure the choices the player has to make feel weighty and I found myself hesitating a long time before choosing how to behave in many situations. The moral choices he creates really encourage the player to role-play, making the choices feel consequential and personal.
My only real complaint is with the “beeping” noise that accompanies text in the character text box. Although I understand that this sound effect is a standard in the adventure game genre, the mechanical beeps unfortunately pull the player right out of the lovely atmosphere the rest of the game has taken such pains to produce. I understand that the developers are aware of the problem and do plan on fixing it in future builds.