A Hole New World is a title that sets out to recapture the feeling of Action Platformers of old. It is set in a world split in two, with there being both an evil and a good side until a lord named Baduk managed to invade alongside his hellish army. This is where the game starts off, and we as the Potion Master must try to reclaim our burning city and defeat Lord Baduk all in the first stage. At first, we can not do much more than jump around and fling potions at enemies which works out for our hero as well as you’d expect when tasked with immediately facing the last boss of the game.
Once defeated, we are dragged from the city under siege by a fairy and into the wilderness. Upon regaining consciousness, we set out to hunt down his generals and in the process learn to make potions based off of their powers. The first few stages will ease you into the game with every enemy dying in a single hit and teaching you that falling into a seemingly endless pit will not kill you. Contrary to all your platforming instincts it can be beneficial to fall into a pit as it pops you back out into the evil side of the world, where enemies are more vicious, and the world is upside down. You’ll occasionally need to do just that in order to find a way to progress through the level or just explore for the ton of secrets this game offers.
Exploring can lead you to meet new allies that may temporarily help you, crystals to gain a decent chunk of points and chicken wings which are the only way to refill your health. The enemies do not respawn once killed, leaving you to just worry about making the jumps. Falling down a pit may not harm you but falling directly into some spikes certainly will. You can take up to five hits before losing a life and respawn exactly where you kicked the bucket. If you are out of lives, your fairy friend will revive you, and it will take you back to your last checkpoint. Doing that has much more severe effects than you may imagine. It will lock you out of the true ending that you receive for beating the game without using a continue which I have a better chance of winning the lottery than accomplishing that.
It certainly is possible though, the controls are tight and responsive with lives being occasionally dished out for those that get enough points and know where to look. Each potion you unlock handle quite differently from one another, as an example, the second one you get spawns a stream of lighting onto where the vial hit but has a much shorter range. There are four unique potions to gather, and every one of them will remain useful for the entirety of the campaign. The final one you collect will grant you the ability to double jump as well as perform a cool slide kick, significantly changing up the game with this newly granted maneuverability.
In total there are five levels, and how long that lasts you depends on your skills. The first two levels you tackle are easy enough, but after that, the gloves are off. You will start encountering enemies that take more than a single hit to kill, more malicious placement of things and tougher stage bosses. One thing that slightly annoyed me with the common foes that take more than a single hit are their invisibility frames. If you hit them with a regular attack, they will have around three seconds of invulnerability, and that is a ton of time for them to return the favor with an attack of their own. It unnecessarily slows down the gameplay and feels like a heavy-handed way to get you to use the charge fairy attack.
The thing that makes A Hole New World really stand out is also the thing that harms it the most. That is the evil world and it always being upside down. It is very weird playing a game in such a way, and while you do get used to it more or less, it is still a handicap in an already challenging title. If it was optional or at least an infrequent thing it would be less of an issue but in areas such as level 4 where they make you navigate an upside down maze while under attack by a horde of enemies, and later on face the boss in that fashion as well, it gets to be a bit much. It is not a game-breaker, but it wouldn’t be a lie when I say that I was considering finding some way to hang my monitor upside down.
Aside from the last boss fight I mentioned, they are all a ton of fun to fight. All of them have you seriously outclassed and have you fighting tooth and nail to bring them down. Unlike facing regular enemies, you will not respawn where you died even if you have extra lives left. It will take you back to the checkpoint and will make you start the fight from scratch. These are the parts of the game where you will likely lose many a life until you get a grip on their patterns and come out triumphant. Lord Baduk himself is more than worthy of a last boss fight and man, are you going to have to earn that victory.
Once you defeat Badulk and beat the game, your journey is still not over as it will unlock a few modes for you to play through. One of them is a challenge mode where it simply tasks you with making it across the level which is much easier said than done, it is jam packed with enemies and hazards. Another is a Boss Rush mode where you must take on every boss of the game, all with a single life bar. And finally, you have New Game Plus that starts you off at the beginning of the game with all your gear and is far more difficult than the base game. It also has the side effect that the good world is upside down while the evil one is the normal one this time around.
In the options menu, you can choose from one of two soundtracks. An 8bit version or a more modern sounding one which was a very cool touch and makes you want to replay it that much more to listen to the differences. You can change it at any time so you can do just that whenever you please. To add to that retro feel, they also have a CRT filter to make you feel like you are playing on an old TV. A Hole New World has an interesting mix of the new and the old to create their own flavor. Their influences are clear, and they add enough of the more modern, forgiving mechanics such as infinite continues to counteract the often times unfair difficulty, allowing anyone to enjoy it but only the skilled to finish it. It does have some flaws like the upside down gimmick though is a barrel of fun and has a considerable amount of content to sink your teeth into.
[Review copy was provided]