Bally/Midway 1981 (KLOV entry)
Reviewed by Dave Dries
The forces of evil, darkness and fantasy were at their peak in 1982. Some say the invasion of evil began January 20th, the day Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a live bat thrown at him during a performance. Evil went on to perpetrate many vile acts that year including the Tylenol scare, the death of comic legend John Belushi, the introduction of liposuction, and the bankrupting of the DeLorean Motor Company.
But perhaps the most sinister deed was the infiltration by the forces of darkness into popular culture and everyday life. Iron Maiden's macabre melodies were at the top of the music charts. Movie-goers were spooked by Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist and mesmerized by Jim Henson's dark side. Legions of young people fell prey to the mind control known as Dungeons & Dragons. And arcades were invaded by the videogame Satan's Hollow!
The gameplay of Satan's Hollow was almost identical to that of every other vertical shooter of its day. You controlled a ship at the bottom of the screen and fired projectiles at the enemies above. Since this type of gameplay made its debut almost five years earlier with Space Invaders in 1978, by 1982 it was already old and tired. But Midway hoped to resurrect this gameplay by adding to it what the public was so hungry for -- a healthy dose of fantasy. Housed inside a blood-red cabinet decorated with images of demons, crystal balls, and winged creatures, Satan's Hollow delivered just that.
Satan's Hollow places you at the base of a mountainous landscape. Across a burning canyon is an ominous-looking castle perched atop a jagged mountaintop. Hordes of winged creatures descend from the skies dropping bombs. Shooting one of these winged creatures will reveal a bridge segment on the left side of the screen. Using a Tron-like joystick to control your ship, moving over a bridge segment will attach it to your ship allowing you to drag it into place over the canyon. Once a bridge is completed you can pass over it to where you must do battle with Satan himself. Surprisingly Satan is not as difficult an opponent as the swarming gargoyles or the pillar-of-flame spitting demons that guard his lair.
The background graphics of Satan's Hollow are an ambitious mix of intricate detail and confusing clutter. While they adequately convey the environment you're in through details like a darkening sky indicating the passage of time, their blocky and grid-like graphics can sometimes be distracting. True, it was only 1982 and the technology didn't allow for much in the way of graphics back then. But whenever I play today I ask the same things I asked myself back in 1982. "Cool! But what is that thing over there in the corner supposed to be? And what's all that junk in the mountain?" But at least you can tell it's a mountain. And from the squawks of dying demons, to the whoosh of flames to the "Ride of the Valkyries" theme music, the sound effects in Satan's Hollow also do a good job establishing a devilish fantasy environment.
Because of the lack of original gameplay in Satan's Hollow there is a strong temptation to classify it as just one of the many vertical shooters. But after playing a few games you begin to encounter some of the hidden details of the game that keep it fresh and exciting. Skillful use of the timed shield becomes a critical strategy when overwhelmed by swarming creatures. During the swarm it's also likely to lose a bridge segment to falling bombs or an awaiting ship to thieving gargoyles. Double and triple-barreled firepower, impassible explosions, nearly invisible attackers and other features await the skilled player.
If you were playing Satan's Hollow for the first time today, it's difficult to say how it would fare. The dated graphics and gameplay may not be enough to motivate you to explore what the game has in store. But having experienced its debut back in 1982 and being completely drawn into its fantastic world of castles, gargoyles and demons, Satan's Hollow earns a solid rating of 3 credits. And Ozzy and Maiden still rock, dude!