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Why Mina the Hollower Might Be 2024's GOTY

by Jordan Rudek - September 6, 2023, 9:00 am EDT
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There’s nothing hollow about the upcoming banger from the makers of Shovel Knight.

At a closed-door media appointment at PAX West, I had an opportunity to play an updated demo for Mina the Hollower, and my already sky-high expectations were taken to a new level. A top-down action platformer in the art style of Link’s Awakening, Mina the Hollower has a lot to live up to in following up the smash hit that was Shovel Knight, but I’m very comfortable in saying that we have absolutely nothing to worry about. Its sublime blend of classic presentation and aesthetic run headlong into modern gameplay stylings; we might just be looking at 2024’s game of the year.

It took about 10 or 15 minutes for the muscle memory to kick in, but after that all of what I had learned about how to control Mina felt like second nature again. The 2023 game slice took me through Bone Beach, a series of mines by the seashore that culminated in entering the gullet of a giant beast (think Jabu-Jabu’s belly from Ocarina of Time, yet another call back to Zelda games of old). Most of my time was spent navigating the giant creature’s insides, with rooms that were padded with what looked like intestines or drowned in stomach acids. Treasure rooms, hidden NPCs, and checkpoints were my rewards for exploring thoroughly, but such rewards came only after overcoming significant challenges. These came in the form of combining platforming and stout foes, with nearly all enemies taking five or more hits to take down. Add to that having to jump across moving platforms and avoid pits, and it’s not hard to see that playing Mina can make for a harrowing set of trials.

Before the demo began, I had the opportunity to choose from three different weapons: the Nightstar whip, the slow but thundering maul, and the double daggers. I opted for the speedy strikes of the latter. One of the daggers can be thrown by holding down the attack button, which helps when you’re out of charges for your sidearm weapon (think classic Castlevania subweapons). The downfall of the daggers is that you need to get into close quarters to deal damage, but even though you’re more prone to take hits, fighting back allows you to restore that missing health. Mina has a set of five flasks that can restore the part of your health meter made yellow, which occurs after you take damage and lose health and then earn yellow health by striking enemies. It really is a satisfying mechanic that rewards aggression and allows you to keep pushing onward rather than wanting to double back to a checkpoint burrow.

So what exactly makes Mina the Hollower a potential game of the year contender for 2024? It’s the culmination of an incredible soundtrack, retro-styled visuals, and the fact that we don’t often see games like this that ask so much of the player. There’s no question that Mina demands a level of precision and skill that no 2D Zelda game ever has. That said, there’s so much room for skillful play and tricky decision-making; I get the sense that the game is continually going to be pushing that type of introspection about which sidearms to carry, which buff-granting artifacts to equip, and even how to deal with the enemy and obstacle layout of each room.

Having spent a couple hours with the game across two different demos, it’s easy for me to say that Mina the Hollower is something special. It’s scratching a particular itch that I’ve had since the Game Boy and Game Boy Color days, one that contemporary top-down action games have only tickled or nicked. The release may still be a ways off, but there’s no need to rush something that could end up being one of the brightest highlights of next year. Mina the Hollower has all of the Yacht Club Games magic that made Shovel Knight a household name, and this new game might just supplant their original mascot–for Shovelry no longer. I’m ready to drop any other game I might be playing at the time when we do finally get our hands on the full version of Mina’s adventure. So a preemptive apology to the games of 2024; I’ve got a date with a whip-wielding, dagger-throwing, maul-smashing mouse.

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Game Profile

Genre Action / Adventure
Developer Yacht Club Games

Worldwide Releases

na: Mina the Hollower
Release TBA
PublisherYacht Club Games
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