Thanks to Mad Gear Games for the review code
Title: A Hole New World
Release Date: 09/05/2017
When evil foes from the Upside Down world break into reality and cause havoc, it’s up to the legendary Potion Master and his fairy companion to embark on a quest to defeat their leader, the evil Lord Baduk and stop the invaders!
Upon looking at the title screen and seeing the opening cutscene, you can be forgiven if you get Shovel Knight vibes from the art style of this game, not just because of it being another NES throwback like that game, but rather due to the fact that the save selection screen and parts of the HUD feel as if they were taken right out of Shovel Knight, seeming to be inspired by another inspired game. When it comes to the actual game in motion however, the sprites do look crisp and well-made, with the Potion Master having some well animated movements and a lot of the bosses being really awesome when it comes to their detail. There’s even an optional SNES-style soundfont available for the soundtrack, if the forgettable 8-bit soundfont doesn’t satisfy you. (though even with both options available, none of the songs stuck in my head for long)
A Hole New World might seem like a Metroidvania at first glance, (thanks to the items littered around each stage and how you have to hunt down certain enemies and items at points in the game, especially if you want to 100% a stage) but it really is just a simple action platformer with only mild, optional backtracking in a stage, being a bit more explorative than Shovel Knight, but more akin to Zelda II’s dungeons in terms of stage design, especially in the later levels of the game. Each stage contains several pits, and when you fall down them you’ll be in a completely inverted world to explore, where everything is upside down. It doesn’t really add much to the game until the later stages, where certain puzzles and paths require you to enter switch between worlds, so for the most part the other world is really just a place to find secrets and kill enemies.
Once you get used to a stage layout, you have the option to aim for 100% completion in each of the stages, which requires you to not only kill every single enemy in the stage, but also pick up every single item, secret and rescue the hidden NPCs, all in one go. For this reason alone, the task of 100%ing the game can become incredibly overwhelming, especially when the number counts get really high in the latter half of the game. Thankfully, 100%ing every single aspect of a stage isn’t something the game forces on you, and you can play the stages at your own pace if you want a traditional platforming experience, which is my recommended way to play the game, as in this case the progression feels a lot like something from a proper retro action game such as Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden, and when combined with the cool weapons you gather during the course of the adventure, it leads to a lot of variety for you to take out enemies and bosses with, from a purple potion that launches a powerful flame pillar, to one that shoots bouncing balls that alternate between fire and ice.
Not all things are golden with this game, however. One incredibly annoying issue that I dealt with in this game was the presence of framerate dips, and not the traditional NES-Era slowdown that simply reduces speed for a few seconds, but full-blown horrendous dips that cut the framerate to the single digits, seemingly at random. This happened to me once in stage 3, and several times in stage 4, the first time just for no reason while I was traversing through the stage, while the next few times happened during a portion where a whole bunch of enemies flooded the screen, during one of the few times the game gets a bit too crazy with enemy placement and just throws them all up Mario Maker style. It got even worse when I used the fire/ice potion and burned a bunch of zombies in a row, which made the game dip so badly with the framerate to the point it made movement really delayed. It’s a shame that in the months since launch this issue hasn’t been patched out, which is something I was surprised to notice as I caught up to this game months after the original PS4 launch.
In conclusion, A Hole New World is a solid action platformer, staying safe and joining the long list of NES-inspired platformers to have flooded the market in the past four years, standing out a bit more than the more generic types thanks to the interesting gimmick the game brings to the table, along with some fun powerups to experiment with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage to be anywhere close to a game that I can recommend for everyone, mainly because the game was made for hardcore purists in mind, not like that’s a bad thing (it isn’t)
While checkpoints and continues are plentiful, this game’s trophy list makes it clear that if you want to truly conquer this game, you’ll need to give it your all, and make absolute sure that you’re willing to tackle the challenges of defeating every boss without taking damage head-on, along with finding every secret in a playthrough, which can lead to one of the hardest PS4 platinums available if you decide to aim for it. Combine that with the aforementioned framerate issues, and you have a rough action platformer that will test everyone, but not in a way that’s always fair or even playable at rare times. Still, it remains solid for the most part, and should offer a lot of fun for action platformer fans looking for an inexpensive fix, flaws and all. I give A Hole New World a 7 out of 10.