Yacht Club Games absolutely spun some heads recently when it revealed Mina the Hollower. Still in the middle of an ongoing Kickstarter campaign, this game is meant to pay homage to old-school portable top-down adventure games while taking on a rather spooky vibe in its aesthetic. I recently got some hands-on time with a PC demo, and while it definitely feels like Game Boy Zelda games and other similar titles of yesteryear, there are all sorts of fun gimmicks here that go beyond that and make me excited to see more of what Mina has to offer.
Bad to the 8-bit bone
The Mina the Hollower demo was a short affair, but it certainly showed off a good idea of what we’re in for gameplay-wise. You'll play as the titular Mina, who is a slayer of spooky creatures that go bump in the night. Arriving on a cursed island, Mina’s job is to bring peace to its quirky inhabitants with her whip and a deluge of trinkets, relics, and sidearms she’ll find along the way.
Mina is a top-down adventure in the vein of games like the original Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening or Oracle of Ages/Seasons. That’s easy to see from the art style and animation. You’ll travel section to section throughout the world, fighting ghouls and monsters of all types, solving puzzles, traversing dungeons, and even pummeling bosses who will reward you with extended health.
However, Mina is more than just a Zelda reskin. It also feels like it has some DNA from games like Castlevania and Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 on the Neo Geo Pocket. It’s not just the spooky scary motif either. In this game, players start with a whip to bust up baddies, but it isn’t long before you also get Side Arms like a knife that can be thrown like a boomerang, an axe you can lob over obstacles, and a drill arm to charge down enemies. You can also find relics that can be equipped to give you special abilities like being able to take more damage or use your Side Arms more frequently. Meanwhile, bones are a wonderfully on-brand currency for experience in this game and if you collect enough, you'll level up to increase your damage, defense, Side Arm damage and more.
Perhaps most important in all of this is the burrowing ability. You have a natural jump button in Mina the Hollower to be used without items at your leisure, but if you hold the jump button, Mina will burrow into the earth to provide all sorts of utility to your combat, puzzle-solving, and exploration. You can use the burrow to come up under a rock and lift it up and then throw it at an enemy, or use the extra air from popping out of the ground to clear an extra long gap. You can also use it to discover hidden paths to rooms full of treasure. I enjoyed using the burrow ability to explore all sorts of nooks and crannies of this demo and I didn’t even find them all in my time with it. Mina the Hollower looks like it will be chock-full of secrets and those who are completionists will probably enjoy hunting them all down.
Providing further atmosphere to this jaunt is an MSX-inspired chiptune soundtrack once again provided by the excellent Jake Kaufman. As you explore the world, Kaufman’s moody tracks play well to its theme and provide a proper spooky, scary, skeleton-slaying backdrop. You’ll also run into more than just enemies on the island. Even in the demo, I came across shopkeepers, colleagues in Hollowing, and various adventurers just trying to make their own way in this dangerous world. It was brief meetings here in the demo, but some of these characters in the demo felt like Mina had run into them previously and make me wonder if they'll have expanded or recurring storylines in the full game.
The cursed night beckons
My time with the Mina the Hollower demo was absolutely delightful to say the least. I love the game’s ghouls, ghosts, and gadgets for dispatching them so far. There are all sorts of weapons and gear to find, and a bevy of secret tunnels and corridors in which to find them. Plus, Kaufman is playing up the mood in this game with all of his usual expertise. This colorful little world is one I’d have popped into a Game Boy and spent hours fiddling with back in the day, but it also thoughtfully works in some modern ideas and mechanics to make it all the more fun. From what I saw, Mina the Hollower has me convinced this is going to be quite the exquisite battle against the forces of darkness and another Yacht Club game we don’t want to miss.
These impressions are based upon an early PC demo of the game supplied by the developer. Mina the Hollower is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign backers can support until March 3, 2022.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Mina the Hollower feels like a love letter to top-down handheld adventures