Retro-inspired indie games that forge their own identity as opposed to merely emulating the classics are a rare breed. A Hole New World accomplishes this through its unique and undeniably fun gameplay so let's throw some potions at monsters!
You play A Hole New World as the Potion Master whose town has recently been occupied by dastardly creatures from the Upside Down World. Upon beginning your adventure, you'll discover that your only means of attack is throwing a seemingly endless supply of potions. The controls are tight so running around, jumping, and throwing potions in order to traverse stages and take out monsters is a ton of fun. As you progress, you'll unlock new attacks and abilities such as a potion that summons lightning bolts, a ground-dash, fireballs that bounce off walls, and a double-jump. Another interesting aspect comes in the stage design in which falling down a hole makes you arrive in the Upside Down World. You also have a fairy buddy named Fäy who can revive you from death sometimes and also utilize a charge attack. Overall, the solid and varied gameplay combines with challenging difficulty to create an action-packed campaign that'll keep you hooked until the very end.
A Hole New World looks great with its somewhat detailed environments and smooth animations for both the Potion Master and his adversaries. The multi-layered scrolling backgrounds are a nice touch, too. All of this being said, the Upside Down World is mostly bland-looking with its primarily dark colour palette. Speaking of which, many enemies and hazards are difficult to see, especially if you're playing in a well-lit room. Bats and birds blend in to the backgrounds while snakes may be in front of similarly-coloured bushes. It goes without saying but it's frustrating getting hurt by these hidden obstacles. On the plus side, the music is extremely catchy in its old-school vibes that are sure to delight fans of retro game soundtracks. In essence, this is one authentic retro-style game.
An interesting part of A Hole New World is its subtle references to other classic games. You'll come across a deity in the opening movie that looks like she's straight from Ys. Also, when the Potion Master double-jumps, he randomly sprouts wings for a frame of animation just like Alucard in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. These little moments are great fun to observe if you're a long-time gamer.
Unfortunately, A Hole New World isn't a very long game. You'll gradually work your way through only a handful of stages which will take between one and two hours. That being said, the final boss is a nightmare so being able to beat the game is a feat fit for only the most capable 2D action fanatics. Those who aren't as capable will likely throw in the towel before completing the campaign which can be a disheartening albeit necessary decision to make. Thankfully, there is plenty of replay value for those who are up for a challenge. You can play through the campaign again in Game+ mode, tackle both boss rush and challenge modes, uncover multiple endings and a few hidden secrets, and try to unlock some truly tough achievements. Most gamers would be happy to just finish the campaign but all of these extra challenges are great for those who crave taking on additional difficult endeavors.
Finally, there is one substantial technical issue that frequently popped up throughout my playthrough. For some reason, many of the checkpoints made the game slow down to a crawl. Upon continuing at these apparently glitchy checkpoints, I had to wait about 30 seconds to a minute in order for the stutter to halt so I could continue. I wish there was a loading screen instead so that it didn't give you the illusion that you could keep playing. For such an action-packed game, this can be a very annoying problem.
A Hole New World is a fantastic tribute to retro 2D action games and it also crafts a unique gameplay formula that's both challenging and rewarding. You may not play it for more than a couple of hours but the time you spend with it will definitely be memorable.
- + Solid retro-style 2D gameplay that offers plenty of unique and challenging action
- + Cool visuals and great music
- + Rewarding replay value for hardcore gamers
- - It's an overall short game
- - Severe slow-down at certain checkpoints
- - Many enemies and obstacles are hard to see / that final boss is one frustrating dude