I really do admire the care, attention to detail and effort that has gone into ‘Hole New World’. Upon receiving the download code I was also given links to two PDF files. One was a digital comic book explaining the back-story, and the other was an illustrated instruction booklet.
Before beginning the main game I decided to check out the options menu and was extremely impressed with what I discovered. ‘Hole New World’ is a retro inspired platform game with 8 bit graphics and naturally includes a chip tune soundtrack. What I wasn’t banking on was that you can choose between two arrangements of the music. If you prefer the traditional NES experience you can choose to listen to 8 bit renditions, however if you’d prefer you can enhance the soundtrack by selecting ‘Super’, which will render the tracks in the style of the Super Nintendo.
I decided to explore what was referred to as the professional options menu. Here I could switch on an enhanced HUD display for completionists who wish to track different aspects of their progress, as well as a timer for speed runners. When it comes to making a good first impression, game developers should take note here.
‘Hole New World’ shares a lot in common with classic platform games of the past. The gothic 8-bit art style is reminiscent of Castlevania, the map system resembles that used in Ghosts n’ Goblins and the selection of versatile weapons shares similarities with Megaman. Unlike a lot of modern retro style games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge, Hole New World doesn’t look overly polished and retains a rougher style which actually makes it look a bit more like authentic. Whether this was deliberate or a happy accident I’m not sure, but it works for me.
The story begins with an enchantress who was able to banish evil by dividing the world into two separate realms. The overworld became a peaceful realm for humans, while all the demons and monsters were banished into the underworld. However, a breach has formed between the two and now our realm has become overrun with invaders. The player takes the role of a potion master who throws a range of different projectiles by way of attack.
The game begins in a humble village where NPCs are getting attacked by the creatures that are swarming through the breach. With the ability to jump through holes and travel between worlds, the protagonist is able to reach a castle and face the final boss right away. This ends badly as the potion master isn’t strong enough to deal with this encounter. Just as the final boss is about to take one last deadly swipe, a fairy flies into the castle to rescue the hero. He is then dragged far across the land where the journey really begins. The mission is to head back towards the castle for a rematch with the final boss, all the while picking up new weapons and abilities along the way.
Stages are split between the over and underworld. The two realms are similar without being exact mirror opposites of each other. The underworld is more densely populated by enemies, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that the underworld should be avoided. The stages have been designed with a bit of flexibility so you can vary the route you take as you see fit. There are points where the underworld is a good escape from platforming hazards above. It’s a bit of a gimmick and I personally would like to have seen this mechanic used to incorporate some puzzle solving or momentum based tasks, however it does help to give stages a little more depth.
Early stages are quite open with straightforward platforming layouts, however towards the end the levels become more labyrinth like with networks of tunnels and maze like structures. Enemies are rather cliché with demons, snakes, bats and skulls etc. However, as you beat stages and collect new weapons you’ll begin to encounter enemies with specific weaknesses. This will keep you on your toes as you have to regularly mix up the weapons you use, and in turn how you approach situations and tackle particular foes.
Despite being a rather short game, the difficulty curve grows swiftly and steadily. Starting off moderately easily, it doesn’t take long before you begin to encounter some resistance. Some of the stage bosses and even mid level bosses took me more than a couple of attempts to beat, however it was once I returned to the castle for the final showdown that I really hit the wall. The final boss is infuriatingly difficult and should only be attempted by those who crave an old school Nintendo hard challenge.
I have to admit, despite my best efforts I’ve yet to beat this bugger, however should I ever manage it there is still plenty of content to consume with New Game+, a boss rush mode and additional challenges for players who want to really prove themselves.
‘Hole new world’ has a basic control scheme to match the retro theme. The D-pad moves your character, two face buttons are used to jump and shoot, and the L and R buttons allow you to scroll through the weapons you have unlocked. There are some special moves you can unlock such as a charge shot, a slide and a double jump. Unfortunately some of the more versatile moves do not unlock until near the end of the campaign. This is a shame as it would have been nice to see these moves incorporated more into the level design.
With so many retro style platform games available they become harder to recommend unless there is something really exceptional about them. ‘Hole New World’ is pretty decent and I really admire the amount of effort that went into those little extras like the comic and professional options. My advice would be that if you are looking for something hard and need a good challenge then this is worth checking out.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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