A Hole New World will take you back to the golden age of gaming. If you’ve read my first impressions, you already know I love this game to pieces. If you were among the many who thought Mighty No. 9 was a letdown, but really dug Shovel Knight (dug? get it?… ok I’ll stop), A Hole New World should satisfy that old school Mega Man urge we crave so desperately, wrapped up in NES style graphics, with the improvements of modern gaming. Releasing on Xbox One & PC May 19th (Don’t worry, if you’re a PS4 player, that release is coming this summer), your chance to get your hands on it are very close, and that’s a good thing.
The crew at Mad Gear Games have crafted an experience that will take you back to your childhood. From the moment it starts, it sucks you right into its pixelated world. The music, artwork and character animations are fantastic, with cutscenes that look like they’ve come straight out of Ninja Gaiden. The story takes place in the world of Versee, a prosperous and peaceful place, slowly being gripped by the forces of evil. Yakshini, creator of Versee, decides to split the world in two to separate good and evil. This comes at the cost of Yakshini’s strength, she has become weak, and could easily be manipulated by mere mortals. She chooses to split herself into 5 orbs, and spreads them across both worlds. However, the evil Lord Baduk discovers the Orb of Darkness and finds his way to Versee. Baduk then proceeds to unleash chaos upon it.
You, the player, take control of the Potion Master. Equipped with different potions & skills you gain from defeating bosses and your trusty fairy companion Fay, you travel across various levels, fighting all manner of demons. The big feature here though is falling down holes. It sounds silly but the game encourages this (Mario this is not), and when you do, you end up in an upside down world. Gameplay remains the same but now you’re looking at everything in a whole new perspective. There are even certain boss fights that take place entirely upside down. It adds a whole new dynamic to the gameplay and keeps things fresh and chaotic. If you can’t go any further in the normal world, try jumping down the nearest hole to find a new route to your goal.
The game does ramp up the difficulty towards the end, requiring fast reflexes and the use of all of your abilities. There’s one area called the “Tower of Hell” that is literally hell to get through. It took numerous attempts to get it right, but after persevering, I was awarded with an achievement and complete satisfaction. Sometimes it can seem unfair, with enemies littering the screen with attacks. Like Dark Souls though, it requires you to remember boss patterns or certain potions you can use that work better on different enemies to achieve victory. Once you know what attacks work best, things get easier. At least the developers were kind enough to add checkpoints throughout the levels, so if you lose all your lives, it makes jumping back into the thick of things quick and easy.
After completing the game, you gain access to New Game +, Boss Rush & Challenge. New Game + carries over all of your abilities, with increased difficulty in the enemies. Some of the boss attacks even change, keeping you on your toes throughout your 2nd playthrough. Boss Rush is exactly what you think it is, and a great way to learn their various patterns. Challenge has you travelling as far as you can to the right before you’ve succumbed to an onslaught of enemies coming towards you. I didn’t get much out of Challenge, it would probably be best played with friends to see who could make it the farthest. There are also plenty of secrets to discover in each level which only add to the replay value.
A Hole New World is a beautiful throwback to 2D platform gaming. It won’t take you too long to get through your first time, but there’s plenty to keep you coming back. Once I was finished with my first playthrough, I immediately dove into New Game +. If you’re a fan of the classics, this one deserves all your attention. I can’t recommend it enough. Let’s hope that we get a sequel that looks like a SNES game. We can dream can’t we? – NVJ