Scarlet Hollow Chapter 1 | Steam Review.

Saturday 26 September 2020

Scarlet Hollow opening title.

Publisher: Black Tabby Games
Developer: Black Tabby Games
Steam Review

*Disclaimer: I was sent the code for this game in return for a review, all opinions are mine and mine alone. 

I was given the opportunity to try out and play through a beautiful visual novel called Scarlet Hollow, you play as a character visiting the town of Scarlet Hollow to attend your aunts funeral. Whilst travelling there you're met by a stranger who will not stop talking to you, me personally, I would rather be left alone so whilst replying to him I responded with answers that gestured this. It can be pretty annoying when you just want to nap and someone keeps nattering on, the stranger seemed rather creepy with what he was talking about and not the kind of person I would befriend. But before we delve deeper into this review I want to talk about the thought given when it comes to pronouns, Scarlet Hollow allows you to be the focus of the game and instead of playing as a random character you can choose your pronouns, name and where you're from. It's refreshing to see developers care about diversity and how others identify, I know so many people who would love to see themselves represented in games and Black Tabby Games have implemented this well. I chose she/her pronouns and my real name which is Elle and the the town I'm from, St Austell, just so I can put myself at the forefront of this mysterious story instead of making someone up.

Choose the gender you identify as in game
Genders to choose from at the start of the game

The town of Scarlet Hollow is very run down much like your late aunt's home which you will be sharing with your cousin Tabitha, she can be very hostile towards you but it's clear she is stressed from everything that is happening since her mother's death. The house you're staying in isn't the safest and the fact that certain areas are forbidden makes it that much more exciting to explore even though that side of the house is locked up... for now. When interacting with Tabitha I tried my best to be as respectful towards her as she was the one I would have to live with for a week and had just lost her mum, so hopefully it pays off. The gloomy feel to the game helps set each scene, the lack of colour is a big hint that this game is about much more than a late aunt's death, in fact you just know that the town and the house holds more secrets than it's letting on.

Game character Tabitha looking tired and run down after her mothers death
Tabitha looks like she isn't coping very well

Once I made way to town I decided to check out the menu settings a little more, I was pleasantly surprised to see the game lets you know what choices you have made for that scene so if you forget something you have said previously or something someone has told you it's already listed in History. I also love the fact that there are preferences for a number for things such as text speed which is great for slower readers or people who are just fast at reading but even then you can just press enter to speed things up. The beautiful art is what caught my eye throughout my gameplay, there may be no colour but it has a lot of character which shows in the detail put into each character's expression and your surroundings, Abby managed to bring the story to life with the artwork she has produced, choices I made fit perfectly with the body language of the characters!

I wasn't sure what to expect the more I progressed and with what choices I made, I started out as polite as I could but ended up wanting to explore options no matter how the questions I asked came across, my reason for this was because I wanted to gather as much information not only about the town but also it's residents. I knew there was more than meets the eye from the frosty welcoming I was given when I introduced myself at the diner, sure they're not used to strangers but there seemed to be something else that made them act the way they did. From the look of one of the miners not far from my table I got the impression something had spooked him and couldn't help but wonder what his story was, I hope to find out more about the miners in chapter 2.

Game scene where my character liess in order to explore
I had become sneaky and started to lie in order to explore with Stella

Speaking of miners, I know that it is one of the main sources of income for the residents in the town, so they must have seen some strange things in this mysterious town much like my new friend Stella who is "famous" in Scarlet Hollow. She makes YouTube videos on strange things that occur in the town and asks you to join her for her latest video, of course I chose yes as I wanted to know more about her hobby and what strange beings she believes in or has seen. We soon learned we had a lot in common thanks to the choices I made and made our way to explore the forest! Stella seemed the kind of person who wants to make sure you're on board with what she is doing rather than forcing you, I liked this as it made me feel safe. 

We then went further into the forest, from this moment on I could tell the game was getting intense even down to the music and the feel of the game. I ended up preparing myself for what came next and I was far from disappointed, I won't go into detail as I want more people to be able to experience this game for themselves. Seeing as this is the first chapter I'm so eager to see what the next one has in store, who will we meet next and what secrets do our late aunt's house hold? The story already flows perfectly even with the multiple choice questions, there is no confusion and I can follow it easily, being able to meet other characters gradually gave me an inkling that the townspeople are what really make this town more interesting not the exterior of the buildings.

The home your character is staying in is very run down and falling apart
Scarlet Hollow is a sad sight to see

Scarlet Hollow is very peculiar and draws you in, it grips you from the start, as someone who has a wild imagination anyways, I could envision their movements off of the screen in my own mind and this personally is what makes a game standout. If I was going to compare it to anything it would maybe be What Remains of Edith Finch just because of the strange house and locked up rooms but even then this game takes you down a different dark road that could not only impact you but the whole town, so if you love creepy novels/games give this one a go, it's available on Steam for free right now. There will be a 7 episodes spaced out of a period of 6 months, which hints that the game delves deeper into the story than I first thought, there must be much more waiting for Stella and me, we will just have to wait and see! There will be a Kickstarter for the next 6 episodes which will launch October 1st, if you want to check it out be sure to bookmark their kickstarter page HERE.

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