Developer – Tenky
Publisher – Konami
Platforms – DS
Length – 2-10 Hours
Believe it or not, reviews actually vary in how difficult they are to write. The ones you have strong feelings about, be they good, bad or otherwise, practically write themselves. It’s the titles you don’t care about either way that are tough to review. Time Hollow is one of those games. Though it’s average on pretty much every scale you can think of, it’s not bad and may be worth a go if you’re really hurting for things to do.
Ethan Kairos is a normal teenage boy – no hidden past, powers or secrets of any kind. On waking up one day, however, Ethan discovers that his parents have been missing for the past 12 years, despite him having seen them only yesterday. Ethan deduces that time itself has been rewritten and it’s up to him to put things right. Using his (newly discovered) family’s legacy, the Hollow Pen, Ethan is able to open holes to the past, making small changes to alter the future. If he can avoid rewriting the lives of everyone else around him, he may just be able to save his parents.
And there isn’t much more to it than that. Time Hollow’s story runs for about four hours, telling a very compact tale that barely scratches the time travel/alteration concept. Some of the changes in time are dubious at best, and I’m sure that if I bothered to think about it I could poke holes in most of Time Hollow’s plot. It’s not a bad story by any means but it fails to grip you and keep you interested enough to care about what’s going on. There isn’t much at all in the way of character development, with Ethan working alone for the most part, though I suppose the story isn’t one that tries to focus on characters anyway.
Whenever there’s an alteration in past events Ethan is shown a few flashbacks to relevant scenes and then has to figure out what has changed and how to fix it. This is done by exploring the town and gathering clues as to what happened in the past, before moving to the scene of one of your flashbacks and opening a hole in time. Though there’s a limit to the number of holes you can open in each chapter, I never even came close to running out and you can find spare time energy just lying around anyway. Once you’ve opened the hole you need to interact with things on the other side to bring time back on track; it may be leaving a note behind with suggestions on how to make a café successful, or something more direct like tightening the knot holding cargo on a truck.
In general it’s very easy to figure out what you have to do to progress, with the game practically shoving a glowing neon sign in your face. In some cases, however, the gameplay devolves into searching every single location multiple times in order to find someone or something that isn’t even a little bit obvious. In any case, you never have to think particularly hard while you’re playing Time Hollow. If you’re after a challenge then this isn’t your game.
While the graphics and sound are nothing special for a DS game, there are a number of animated cutscenes that I enjoyed. They’re not very long and nothing much happens in them, but I was still happy that they were there.
Summary – Exceedingly average (is that an oxymoron?) in every way, Time Hollow is probably only worth playing as a palate cleanser in between titles you really care about. Sometimes with games like this I’ll mention something about unrealized potential but Time Hollow aims for the middle ground and hits it dead on, so there’s not even much to say in that respect.
Score: 5/10 – Average