Scarlet Hollow is a hand-drawn, choice-driven horror adventure game which started life as a Kickstarter campaign in 2019. It is developed and published by Black Tabby Games and is available on the PC via episodes. There are 7 planned to be released in total with a new one due out roughly every 6 months. The first 2 episodes are currently available over on Steam. Scarlet Hollow is still in Early Access, the plan being to remain that way until the release of episode 7 in October 2023. This Early Access version will however allow players to recieve each of the episodes as and when they are released, much like a season pass would, over the course of the schedule, until the game is finally officially released as a complete story.
Scarlet Hollow begins with you, the main character, travelling to your Aunt's funeral which is in the town of Scarlet Hollow (known locally as the Holler), and you are met at the bus station by your cousin Tabitha. Episode 1, which is currently free to play on Steam, covers the entire first day as you arrive in Scarlet Hollow. You have just enough time to get settled in and get familiar with the town and the locals, before some strange things start to happen. Well this is a horror story after all, and things start to take a turn for the worse quite early on in the story.
As the game is told through the style of a visual novel, if you are new to this sort of game, it really won't take long to get adjusted to it. The dialogue is easy to follow, and you get a few different options with your replies, which can affect the outcome and how the story will move along. I should point out as well that at the start of the game, you get to select 2 traits from a list, and whichever ones you choose, they will affect the game play, and the story. With that in mind, there is scope for replays, if you want to try out different routes through the game. Also, you create a sort of mini profile at the start, so the game and the story become a little bit personalised as you are referred to by the name you choose, and this all adds value to the overall experience. I did find myself becoming very engrossed in the story very quickly.
Scarlet Hollow features incredible hand-drawn artwork from award-winning graphic novelist Abby Howard as well as original music from award-winning composer Brandon Boone. The menus are easy to navigate, you can save the game whenever you want to, and there is an option to look back through the history of the dialogue, just in case you missed something or need to backtrack to check some vital piece of information. Controls are point-and-click, and there are various options of dialogue that you are able to choose from in the game.
Relationships can be built in game and the traits that you select before starting your story do come into play with both the actions relating to the gameplay and with the other characters. There will be moments when you have to make a decision, and the outcome may not be the best, and there is plenty to get immersed into within the game. I would say that length wise, episode 1 is about an hour long. It is free to play this episode right now on Steam, and you should really go and give it a try. Episode 2 is available through the Early Access option, for those who would like to commit to the rest of the game over the course of its full release.
Overall I would say that Scarlet Hollow is another point-and-click horror adventure game that you should absolutely have in your library. The story is great, the artwork and the music both add so much to the game. The episodic release schedule allows you to play through each of the chapters a few times, while you wait for the next one to continue the story. If you enjoy your small town stories with some dark undertones, a little splash of mystery, with the added bonus of a cute little Pug, then Scarlet Hollow is definitely for you. With episode 1 being free to play, there really is no excuse not to at least give it a go, but I imagine you will become hooked on the story of the game and get drawn in by the artwork and the music and just the overall style of the game. I think that I am going to be dropping just a half point off only for the reason that it will be closer to October 2023 before we know how the story finally ends.
g1a5w3g1an's Rating: 4.5 (eerie twig-snapping noises) out of 5.
Scarlet Hollow | Steam Store