Overall Score 82%
KarjaSoft are no strangers to us here at Bytten. They are the brains behind the one and only sheep herding game that I have ever played; “Sheeplings”. You might also remember Andrew Williams' favourable review of “Spandex Force”; an RPG/puzzler. This time around they expand their catalogue of excellent games with another polished effort. And in a new direction for them, this one's more of an adventure with some cleverly placed mini-games to break up the story and provide a distraction to the player as they progress through the plot.
Overall, the game plays out as a point and click adventure. The player assumes the role of the hero (which they are free to name as desired) on a dual mission to search for his missing parents and to rebuild the family farm after a mysterious attack on the property. If anything, the story might be the weakest part of the game. It's not utterly bad, but it tends towards simple concepts and smacks of a story written around a game engine, rather than a game designed for a great story. Still, there's humour by the bucketload, lots of action and it does its job without being truly memorable.
Game progression is very straightforward. The player simply clicks on an area of the screen that might be of interest, and the game performs a context sensitive action depending on what elements have been selected. Click on a person to converse with them, a shop to enter it and deal with the merchant inside, or an object to pick it up or examine it. When in conversation, the player can often choose from a variety of responses, but in the end, there's nothing to be lost by trying all of them in succession. In fact it's very hard to become stuck at all; the puzzles are simple and the cause/effect nature of the linear plot makes the game feel a bit more like interactive fiction that a true adventure. It's a game that would be perfectly suited to kids from the age of about 5 to 10 years old. Mature gamers will probably find the action a bit light and the concepts quite basic. There's around 5 to 10 hours of play here, depending on how fast or slowly you'd like to progress through.
During the course of the game, the player will need money for their character's progression through the story. That's where the crazy looking animals in the screenshots come in. By rebuilding the family ranch, the player will ultimately be able to care for and breed lots of strange beasts to sell as required. They need to be fed and groomed regularly in order to become happy and healthy. Of course, the better the animals are cared for, the more money they can be sold for at market. In a clever twist, the needs of the animals continue to be tracked in real time, even as the player is off following the storyline, so frequent trips back to the farm are advisable. This part of the game is quite addictive, and reminded me a lot of a game I got hooked on a few years back, where the player had to tend to an aquarium of goldfish, discover new breeds and make money in a real time environment. Although the player is free to cross-breed different types of animals, I'm still unsure as to whether coding to simulate genetics has been implemented. Certainly, offspring colour seems to be dictated by the colours of the parents, but sometimes, seemingly random species could unexpectedly come from like-species breeding. In any case, there's lots of fun to be had with experimentation.
And lots of animals means lots of food will be required. Different breeds of beasts will have different preferences when they get hungry. More mini-games that involve reflexes, skill and luck in equal quantities are used to collect foodstuffs like fish, acorns, apples and mushrooms. But if you're rich and feeling lazy, for a price you can buy magical potions that instantly satiate any animal. Excess food can be sold off to vendors, and this is another way to make cash early on in the game.
As usual for a KarjaSoft title, the most striking feature of Wildhollow is, without a doubt, the immaculate presentation. From a seamless install, to a seemingly bug free playthrough, and a clean uninstall – everything worked perfectly. It's hard to find fault with such a professional offering. The hand drawn background artwork has a warm and evocative feeling to it. Characters are presented in cartoon style and emote their lines with varied facial expressions and poses. Each character is distinctive and interesting in their own way, and the syntax is free of the spelling and punctuation errors that can be the bane of indie adventure games. The music and sounds do a great job of immersing the player in the game world, and are of equally high quality.
Wildhollow is an interesting mix of a couple of genres. I'm not the kind of player who could sit through an entire playthrough of a strict hidden object game, but as part of the bigger picture, the hidden object elements (and achievements) in Wildhollow were quite fun. Likewise, a simple point and click adventure game can be droll unless the story is substantial enough to carry it. The story in Wildhollow is not stellar by any means, but the obvious pride that KarjaSoft have taken in the development and production of this game ensures that the resulting appeal is considerably greater than a simple sum of its parts.
Keywords: wildhollow review, karjasoft reviews, karjasoft games, wildhollow scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.