Time Hollow Review
Graphic adventure games had recently seen a rise, especially in handheld devices like the DS where you could even interact with the game using a stylus pen. Time Hollow, is one such game, where even such object in-game, a pen, became the central focus of both the storyline and gameplay.
The game features Ethan Kairos, a high school student whose parents suddenly disappear on his 17th birthday. He found out that he had somehow entered into a world where his parents had disappeared for 12 years, and it was his uncle taking care of him ever since. It was at this turning point when Ethan found a weird pen, which goes by the name hollow pen. This pen has the power to draw portals to the past, in doing so, he could slightly alter the past in a way he so desires, and as a result, changes his desired future. Using this power, he decided to figure things out and to bring his parents back one way or the other.
Throughout the game, Ethan kept shifting time to create the best possible outcome for both his friends and families. Yet, he had to ask himself, is what he did the right thing? Even if he created a good outcome for individual A, it might pose another problem for individual B. He had to think several steps ahead just what will happened by flickering around with the past. What’s worse, the fact that he may not be the only hollow pen user forces him to outwit his unseen opponent in the art of time wrapping.
The plot constantly entwine itself with puzzling twists and mysteries, and indeed, some characters are more then they seems. Some includes Ethan’s teacher, Jack, who seems like he “understood” things, and Kori, who suddenly became a student out of the blue one day just when the strange phenomenon begun, last but not least, there’s also Irving Onegin, a mysterious person who suspiciously posed himself as an antique dealer. The characters in Time Hollow manages to shine in a mysterious radiance, and that’s certainly a plus in such a mystery-filled plot.
Although Time Hollow’s characterizations aren’t flawless either, there are quite some characters who have extremely minor roles, almost to the point of irrelevance. The problem with this is that after the protagonist solve the issue of one such character, that character will be “left out” while the plot focuses on another new character with their respective problem. This ongoing repetitive pattern creates an exceptionally large cast, and honestly, only a small handful of characters in the cast are worth the attention.
Having such compelling storylines, Time Hollow sadly lacks in the quality of gameplay. During gameplay, you can initiate various interactions like interacting with an object (a door or something will cause you to move about), start a conversations with someone if they are available on screen, and last but not least, “digging”, the main aspect of the gameplay. During “digging”, you can literally “draw holes” with the pen. The hole will act as a portal to the past, and through the hole, you can do various things, like putting in an object of significance which helps “avoid future troubles”, a note to notify someone from the past on something, taking out something, a murder weapon even, to avoid an oncoming future killing incident, and you could even talk to someone through that portal, if that person has the capability to do so.
Ironically, you do not have full control of the pen at anytime. When time shifts, Ethan will have flashbacks and fragmented memories of the new realm, and he needs to find out what had happened in this new reality. Once he obtained enough clues, the pen will then glow and it’s only then he can finally start ‘digging’.
The gist of the flaws behind Time Hollow’s gameplay is probably over-simplification and linearity. It is incredibly easy to know what’s your next step of action due to it’s straightforwardness, and that is ironic, especially in a mystery, thought-provoking game like this. Luckily, the engaging storylines make one easily forget the overly simplistic gameplays at most times.
I wouldn’t say Time Hollow looks visually great but the graphics are on satisfactory levels at least. When one plays Time Hollow, the visual outlook makes one think of Phoenix Wright series, or even 999 with their “investigative” concept. Unlike the latter two which had “large investigative areas” though , most of the areas in Time Hollow are insanely small, so even with the option to pan left and right, there are still not much to look around anyway. There are a few animated sequences in between though, and these help immensely in reinforcing some of the more memorable moments of the game.
I like the map interface, though it definitely still needs some improvements. I think using a map is a good idea for graphic investigation games like these, and would love to see this incorporated in some Phoenix Wright games.
Most of the soundtracks fit the respective atmospheres of the game, though they feel quite repetitive over time. The opening sequence is also a pretty good song, combined with a beautiful opening animation.
The game is unbelievably short too, and you could probably finish the whole game in no lesser then 10 hours. It also sadly doesn’t offer much replay values. There might be some small alterations during the gameplay which may effect outcomes, but overall, the general structure of the storyline will still stay the same, and thus the ending. There are only one alternative ending available after finishing the first one, and that particular ending feels a bit silly to have, due to it’s extremely short content and the way it is played out.
The main strength behind Time Hollow is it’s engaging storyline, it provided the players the urge to continue playing the game in order to find out what happened next, it is able to produce that sense of anxiety and intensity in it’s storytelling. Although it falls short gameplay-wise, I’m sure for those who are looking for time traveling themed stories in general, Time Hollow will be able to satisfy their needs.