After spending many decades of my life playing as many video games as possible, it’s the 2D platformers of the wide world of gaming where I feel most at home. Maybe it’s because the first video game I played was Super Mario Bros 3, or just due to the sheer amount of the genre I’ve indulged in over the years. I don’t need fast paced action to accompany my platforming either, I’m just as happy for my running and jumping to be accompanied by puzzles and an interesting narrative. A Void Hope is an upcoming puzzle platformer with an intriguing premise, and based on the demo I’m definitely keen to jump back in closer to release.
A Void Hope opens with a couple, Gilda and Keegan, living their daily life in the big city, who are currently planning to become a family and bring a child into the world. A mysterious outbreak puts their plans in jeopardy though, as the city is slowly infected by a condition that causes people to lose their memories and eventually become a violent zombie-like husk. After a bit of back and forth the couple decide to move out into the countryside until somebody finds a cure, so after an intro level that’s where our story begins.
It doesn’t take long for you to realise that rushing out of the city unfortunately didn’t solve the problems of our protagonists, as Keegan is starting to forget things. For some reason Gilda thinks she has the key to finding a cure and rushes back to the city, and we’re left to control Keegan who rushes after her despite struggling to remember key moments in their relationship and even her face. The story is perhaps the most intriguing part of A Void Hope, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to this couple in peril past the first hour of gameplay.
The actual platforming in A Void Hope is incredibly simple, you use the D-pad or (if you’re a monster) the control stick to move around and press A to jump. That’s really all there is to it, and honestly given the lack of focus on platforming challenge that’s all you really need. You’d think that would mean the focus would be on puzzle solving, but honestly based on the demo I’d say that’s a stretch.
For the hour I played of A Void Hope there were only two types of “puzzles” that needed solving, and they involved either pushing a box to be able to climb up to a higher ledge, or using a slowly charging gun to shoot a switch that opened a door. It’s hard to know if A Void Hope is planning on slowly becoming a game that requires more thought from the player or if the exploration or narrative is going to be the driving force going forward.
One thing the demo of A Void Hope did show though is that you’ll be gathering a selection of items that will slowly help you access more areas in the different stages of the game. The previously mentioned gun was the first of these, which can be used to stun infected humans for a moment so you can wander past them as well as pressing buttons. I also got a crowbar that enabled me to pull wooden boards off doors to progress further. It’ll be interesting to see how many more upgrades to your exploring arsenal there are later in the game, because there were quite a few doors I couldn’t enter during my time in A Void Hope.
I do think that the exploration could be a big hook that keeps me invested throughout the full game, especially because the world is absolutely gorgeous to look at. There were a few times though where despite being in a huge city it felt like my exploration options were limited, with loads of doors and paths that just led to nowhere. I’d love to be encouraged to look around more by a few collectables or secrets, as the few memory scenes I did find while exploring were really interesting.
I can’t wrap up a preview of A Void Hope without talking about the most impressive aspect of the entire demo, the audio. The synth soundtrack is absolutely sublime, and given the slightly creepy setting is incredibly appropriate. It makes the game almost feel like you’re playing through a season of Stranger Things, and I am so down for that.
The demo of A Void Hope left me wanting more, although honestly I’m unsure as to what the rest of the game will have to offer. Will there be more thoughtful puzzles, a focus on exploration and going back to old stages, or just a lot of narrative to keep us playing? Only time will tell I suppose, but as long as I get to be in that world and can let the soundtrack pump in my ears I’ll be there to experience it.