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Hollow Cocoon (PC)

Hollow Cocoon (PC) - Review

by Thomas Froehlicher , posted on 01 January 2024 / 3,628 Views

There's nothing like a good survival horror game for long winter nights. Hollow Cocoon looked sufficiently ambitious for an indie horror release to draw my attention. The question I faced then was "can this small title quench my thirst for horror?"

Hollow Cocoon takes place in the Japanese countryside in the 1980s. A young man called Minato has returned to his grandmother's home after she passed away, but finds himself trapped in a domain with an aggressive undead monster pursuing him. Developer Nayuta Studio has managed to achieve a convincing re-creation of 1980s Japan here. The visuals are very sharp for an indie title, and the local environment is full of little details reminiscent of past eras, like the shopping program on TV, the old-fashioned Japanese keys, and other vintage toys & items. It's also a good fit for the Steam Deck: I had no problems when playing it, save that the machine heated up a bit more than usual.

While I was definitely pleased with how Hollow Cocoon looks, I must say I expected more with respect to how it plays and feels. It's a first-person perspective survival-horror game, but there are no weapons of any sort, so you always have to flee the monster. You can move about freely in real-time within a relatively large house full of rooms and puzzles, but at regular intervals you'll have to escape the monster and hide in a closet. Unfortunately, that's pretty much all you should expect to get out of Hollow Cocoon in terms of fear and excitement. 

Outside of a few jump scares consisting of an undead woman coming out of nowhere, I can't say that Hollow Cocoon managed to build up a tense or distressing atmosphere. The game basically consists of an ordinary house with a deadly zombie inside, and you get used to this situation very quickly. It lacks unexpected or eerie happenings along the way, and there are no chilling little details within the house. At a certain point it stops being frightening at all because it's simply too predictable - a fatal drawback for a survival-horror title.

The author also doesn't convey the story very well either. Most of what Minato discovers about his family is written in (very) long letters scattered throughout the house. It's tedious to follow a video game narrative solely in this way, with large blocks of plain text. A few flashback scenes, or even still images like the sort you find in a visual novel, would have been very welcome here.

On the plus side Hollow Cocoon does feature decent puzzle gameplay, which qualifies it as a point and click adventure more than anything else. A number of key items are hidden within the premises and must be used at the right locations (or combined with other items), in order to progress. Hints, given by little notes here and there, ensure a correct balance in terms of challenge level; you have to look and think by yourself, analysing the map and the surroundings, but there are enough indications of the correct course of action that you'll likely avoid getting stuck despite the constant wandering of the undead beast. Unfortunately said foe appears too often for my tastes, and it's an absolute pain to shake it off (it can draw you out of your hiding place, for example). So what should have been a key feature for the horror side of the game ended up feeling more like an obstacle to my enjoyment of the stronger puzzle aspect.

It's a very short game, coming in at 6-10 hours or so, but also quite inexpensive, which helps to mitigate the short runtime. Unfortunately both normal endings are disappointing, making little sense and leaving more questions than answers. And I do find it frustrating that the true endings are locked behind the completion of plainly tedious and nearly impossible mini-games. There are devices similar to pinball machines in parts of the town and buildings, where you have to get a little ball in the right hole while avoiding the numerous wrong ones. You have a limited number of tries (the machines require coins) and must win several tokens in order to purchase the secret key to the secret door that leads to the secret ending. I'm honestly shocked that the ability to witness the grand finale of the narrative actually comes down to that.

Hollow Cocoon has potential, and is notable for its visuals, but it lacks enough compelling and suspenseful ideas to succeed as a survival-horror title. The environment isn't terrifying, nor are the undead horrors, and the story fails to stand out even in the midst of some genuinely interesting puzzles. A grotesque monster hounding the player doesn't automatically make for a great horror game, especially when that creature ends up being more irritating than frightening.

After graduating from a French business school, Thomas felt an irresistible force drawing him to study Japanese, which eventually led him to Japanese Profeciency Test level 1 in 2012. During the day, Thomas is a normal account manager. But at night he becomes Ryuzaki57, an extreme otaku gamer hungry for Japanese games (preferably with pretty girls in the main role). His knowledge now allows him to import games at Japanese release for unthinkable prices, and then tell everyone about them. You may also find him on French video games media. Feel free to contact on twitter at @Ryuz4ki57

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of Hollow Cocoon for the PC, provided by the publisher.

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