Over the past decade, developer Yacht Club Games has built an empire under its Shovel Knight brand, becoming the face of the indie gaming space. But with Mina the Hollower, the studio intends to bring something completely newand after my first demo, I’m looking forward to seeing more.
Inspired by the Game Boy Color era and more specifically The Legend of Zelda franchise, Mina the Hollower wants to bring the best of design from games old and new, while also introducing its own mechanics into the mix. After playing a full level of the game, I was met with fair, yet challenging obstacles coupled with fresh, yet familiar gameplay. The result is something that feels entirely its own.
At first sight, Mina the Hollower plays out like a typical top-down 2D action-adventure, but it also reminds me of what you’d find in a non-traditional platformer. Instead of jumping, your protagonist Mina buries herself underground. She can rise from the ground whenever she wants, but she can’t stay buried forever. If she is near the edge of a gap, she will jump to the other side, allowing you to control where she can land. Throughout my demo I was presented with multiple skill challenges where I had to master the timing of my burrows and jumps to progress through a section of the level. Burrows also allow Mina to pick up rocks and pots that she can throw at enemies.
Ultimately, it is your reliance on the mechanics that determines what you will do in each combat scenario.
Mina is equipped with a whip that serves as her main weapon, but also has an additional special property. If Mina isn’t at full health, hitting baddies stacks a yellow bar beyond your current health, and using a flask can restore your health up to that level. This is similar to the flasks in Dark Souls, but this time you have to earn your healing with an attractive risk and reward system, since combat is the path to your possible survival or death. Throughout my gameplay, there were many moments where I wondered if it was worth fighting an enemy to heal or hide and escape from the encounter. Ultimately, it is your reliance on the mechanics that determines what you will do in each combat scenario.
Other ways to heal are to hit random objects or visit any of Mina’s sub-labs, an underground place that serves as a checkpoint and where Mina can store items. There were several moments of fulfillment as I reached the next underground lab, allowing me to breathe and regain my bearings in this lovely little sanctuary.
What makes Mina the Hollower so much fun is that everyone will approach each room differently.
Along with his whip, Mina can access secondary weapons such as throwing knives and axes that he can throw at his enemies. Defeating enemies will earn you bones, which not only serve as currency to increase your stats, but also determine your level ups. Mina not only has a health bar, but also sparks that can be compared to lives in most other games. When Mina dies, the spark is consumed by the enemy that kills her, forcing you to kill that enemy on their next walk to get that spark back.
What makes Mina the Hollower so much fun is that everyone will approach each room differently. You can choose to go on the offensive, taking down everything in your path, or you can avoid combat in most cases and sneak past every threat in your path. Naturally, you will find the right balance for you. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait much longer to be able to play this promising new beginning.