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Cute, interesting, emotional. Too short, though.

  • Gretgor
  • 11/16/2019 06:14 AM
  • 553 views
Grimm's Hollow is a delightful short adventure. If anything, the fact that it is short may be my biggest gripe with it.

You play as female protagonist Lavender, who has died mysteriously and been sent to a place called Grimm's Hollow. She's greeted in the afterlife by a troupe of cute grim reapers and their boss Grimm, who tells Lavender that she couldn't move on to the full afterlife because her spirit is not strong enough yet. In order to obtain the strength to cross over, Lavender must help the reapers in their job to reap restless souls and send them to the afterlife. Lavender, however, has her own plans, as she wants to find her little brother Tim and send him back to life. And thus, the adventure begins.

... and then, just a few minutes later, the adventure ends. I'm really sad that this game is so short, because it has so much going for it, and so much potential for different stories to unfold.

PRESENTATION

Grimm's Hollow's presentation goes for a simple graphical style, favoring feeling over level of detail. In a day and age where a pixel art game is not considered done unless every single blade of grass has ten frames of animation, seeing a simpler style is a breath of fresh air. Then again, this is RM2K3, so this kind of thing would be very hard to do in it, but I digress.

The purple color palette is a great choice for a cutesy, self-aware little Halloween adventure. The palette occasionally changes into different colors to fit the mood of certain events, which I find quite neat, but the game overall uses the color purple.

I really like the design of everything in this game, from the characters, to the ghosts you fight against, including even the cute little items you consume to recover health. Everything in this game is drawn with a Halloweenie-cutesy theme in mind, and it all looks precious. There are some significant hiccups here and there, though, like the walking animations that look very wonky, and Lavender's battle sprite "jittering" in place a bit, but those are minor nitpicks.

Then there's the sceneries and maps. They're competent for the most part. There is the cute mansion where the cute reapers sleep, there's the cute café where the reapers restore their energy, and there's Grimm's house, full of cute details about their everyday life. Then there's the caves, which are basically the game's dungeons. The caves themselves look okay, but they contain some tileset mistakes here and there, like certain cliff tiles being used in weird places and stuff like that. Nothing too glaring, but it wouldn't hurt to sweep through the game's maps and solve these little problems.

The music in this game goes for an ambient and emotional feel, and it is well executed. In most situations, the background music translated the intended feelings of the events in the game perfectly, giving the scenes a lot of soul (no pun intended). Not a single song stood out as a catchy instant video game hit, but I don't think they were trying for that.

Without much else to say about the presentation, my conclusion is that it is very good. There are a few mishaps in certain departments, but nothing too grave.

GAMEPLAY

Grimm's Hollow is a turn-based RPG with quick time events in its battles, so kinda like the Mario RPGs or Costume Quest. I prefer that, actually, since pure turn-based battles tend to bore me.

While the battles work mostly alright, there are a few bugs. There were numerous situations where a QTE would trigger while I'm browsing a menu, and that led to me taking cheap hits more often than I'm comfortable with. Also, I think certain encounters are outright broken, always managing to kill me no matter how hard I try to beat them (the one featuring a Carole together with a shield guy comes to mind).

I do, however, like how every battle, even the regular ones you find while exploring the caves, requires you to know what you're doing in order to beat it. You can't go into these battles expecting to be able to spam the regular attack and succeed. Some battles require you to handle multiple enemies at the same time, some battles require you to defeat a shielding enemy first, and so on. There's quite a lot of variety here, and it makes for a pretty meaty RPG experience.

Speaking of caves, this game has caves. Did I mention that this game has caves? The caves are nice. They're this game's dungeons, like I said before, and while they're mostly linear in structure, they do have some nice secrets to uncover if you're willing to go off the beaten path and explore. I always like stuff like that, and I also like how the "chests" in the dungeons are passed out reapers and proto-ghosts rather than regular, plain, boring wooden chests.

The caves are the bulk of the game, so to speak. They're nice, but I wish they were more complex, maybe including a few puzzles here and there, I dunno. Oh, also, quick bug report: there is a place in a cave where you can get infinite muffins when you should only be able to get one. The devs probably forgot to flip a switch after we obtain the muffin for the first time or something.

Then there's also the skill tree. Instead of leveling up like you would in a normal RPG, every battle rewards you with points you can spend on the skill tree, which can be applied in stuff like increasing your base stats, and learning new skills. I like that, it allows me to build up my character the way I want her to be. Placing thousands of points on speed so I can attack three times before my enemy has the chance to do anything about it is awesome.

So yeah, the gameplay is quite good. That's about it. Okay now, let me talk about what I really want to discuss in this game.

STORY

Grimm's Hollow is a story about a deceased sister trying to save her brother, all while coming to terms with her new condition as a reaper inhabiting the titular Hollow. The story is emotional and adorable, and the game does a good job of telling it.

The game's world, so to speak, is built in a very fascinating way. Without being overly complex, it still manages to be quite interesting. If only the game was a bit longer, maybe we could have explored this world's numerous potential stories some more.

The characters in this game are all quite nice. Some are more deeeply fleshed out than others, but all of them add something to the story by being in it. I particularly like how kind and mothering Grimm is towards all the little reapers, and how sweet and protective Lavender is to her little brother.

The dialogs by way of which the characters grow, and bonds are established and built upon, are really nice. They are effective at conveying the emotions they go for, and they make the relationships between characters believable and endearing. Not a single conversation stands out as particularly soul-piercing, but all of them work well.

The story explores themes like coming to terms with one's own death, the condition of incomplete beings seeking their moment of completion, grief for the loss of a loved one, and the hopeless feeling of losing control over your fate. These themes are explored not only in the storyline itself, but also in some of the ghosts you encounter along the way, especially in the late game. Without wishing to spoil anything, it broke my heart to reap some of these ghosts, let's just leave it at that.

Now, for the next part, I'm going to add some hide tags, because I want to discuss some things about the way the story unfolds.


The Baker character is an interesting fellow. At first, it seemed like they were content living as the baker of Grimm's Hollow, but they seized the opportunity to live again as soon as they saw a chance. Their desire to live again is not entirely unrelatable, even though it's obviously unreasonable. When I think if the Baker, I think of desperation and longing, and I think he's a great character.

The good ending didn't make me cry, but it did make me loudly exclaim "aww", so it was quite good.

Now, the bad ending was awesome. I just love how melancholic and powerless Lavender is in it, as she watches her brother being reaped in front of her eyes and proceeds to become a callous, emotionless hermit of a reaper. I'd have loved a bit more of that dark feeling throughout the rest of the game, actually. Maybe if it was longer, had more subplots and character arcs, I dunno.

Honestly, I wish the game went on a bit more after what is currently the ending. Maybe exploring Lavender's condition as a reaper after the events with her brother are left in the past, as she comes to terms with the fact that she lost her brother either way (either she'll have to wait for him to die as well, or she'll have to wait to cross over to see them again), maybe with some extra dungeons and new subplots to uncover, concluding with Lavender finally having enough power to cross the gate to the afterlife. That would have been much more fun than just learning about all that happens through an ending cutscene.


All in all, the story in this game is quite great. I only wish there was more of it. Did I mention this game is short?

FINAL COMMENTS

I must have mentioned a dozen times in this review how much I wish this game was longer. That's my main complaint about it, that it makes me sad there isn't more of it. The world the game builds, and the main character's role in this world, are things I really wish were expanded upon a bit more.

Grimm's Hollow is engaging and endearing, but it is much, much too short. But then again, for the very low price of $ 0.00, it is worth infinity times more than every penny spent!

I highly recommend this to everyone. You're probably going to enjoy it, but even if you don't, it's gonna be over before you notice.

Posts

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Thank you so much for the positive review Gretgor!

The game's short length is mainly due to circumstance and the fact that I didn't want to do something too extensive for my first project: I concentrated on making a simple, short plot outline in between dungeon gameplay in the planning stages because I knew that other aspects of game development (graphics, testing, etc) would take up a load of time that was hard to predict. I wanted to finish my first game before I left for college (since I knew it would be difficult to continue to make games after that), and unfortunately that resulted in a load of the game's lack of polish and short length. I'm by no means dismissing the game's flaws and bugs though - I'm grateful to receive any feedback about it since I have a to learn and I'm working on fixing some of the bugs in an update!

Thank you again for playing and leaving a review Gretgor, and I am glad you enjoyed the game's world and story. :)
Gretgor
I have started my journey to get my first 4/5 before dreaming any bigger than that. Gradual and steady does it... hopefully.
2264
Understandable. I hope college will leave you with enough time to work on some new games.

I had tons of free time in college because I didn't need to work during my studies, but I understand that is not possible for everyone. I didn't work on many games back then because I was extremely lazy, not because I didn't have time.

Looking forward to whatever you are gonna do next :)
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