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Satan's Hollow (Arcade) artwork

Satan's Hollow (Arcade) review

"To an impressionable six-year-old Christian schoolchild, this was an amazing find. After seeing Satan's full-body portrait on the side of the arcade cabinet, I couldn't help but leap into the lion's den; the prospect of defeating the devil and becoming a Bible Camp Hero was more temptation than I could resist!"

1982: Year of the Beast

Brought to life by Bally's necromancers during the Galaga era, an innocent era during which corporations didn't worry about lawsuits from ideologically offended devil-worshippers, Satan's Hollow adopted the tried-and-true "swirling enemies that shoot and steal spaceships" approach. Instead of starfields, Bally's battleground was the devil's doorstep -- a rocky wasteland split in two by a deep gorge full of molten lava. On the other side of this gorge, a winding trail stretched all the way up to Satan's corrupt castle of contemptible crime.

To an impressionable six-year-old Christian schoolchild, this was an amazing find. After seeing Satan's full-body portrait on the side of the arcade cabinet, I couldn't help but leap into the lion's den; the prospect of defeating the devil and becoming a Bible Camp Hero was more temptation than I could resist!

Unfortunately, Satan's Hollow was beyond my then-puny abilities, forcing me to bow my head in shameful deference. Fortunately, as I've grown older and wiser, I've honed my holy shooting skills to cope with the challenge. It's true -- Satan's Hollow is the game that motivated me to take on Air Gallet, Ray Force, and Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2.

While fending off gargoyles and fire-spitting demons, the valiant CHRISTIAN STARSHIP (conveniently equipped with Jesus lasers and devil deflector shields) has to grab bridge pieces and place them above the gaping chasm. Once the bridge is complete, the CHRISTIAN STARSHIP can cross the chasm and fight the Prince of Darkness himself in a mano-y-demono duel. Bridging the gap is no simple task, because the gargoyles swoop and swirl in seemingly erratic patterns. Mix that with a bit of iffy collision detection and you've got a game that feels unfair... but then, who ever accused the devil of playing fair?

The neat thing about Satan's Hollow is that the enemy movements aren't erratic; each stage has pre-programmed patterns that can be learned and memorized through repeated play. This allows for a nice level of strategy. That doesn't quite make up for enemies blending into the background or the CHRISTIAN STARSHIP's inconveniently large hitbox, but it's still interesting to think about the level of care that went into designing each stage.

Compared to the challenge involved in reaching Apollyon, you'll be amazed by how quickly Mephistopheles falls in flames. Yes, Satan's Hollow depicts Beelzebub as a puny being who can easily be defeated by laser beams. This is an unforgivable smear on all of Lucifer's hundred names! Fortunately, like other '80's arcade games, it's impossible to ever truly "win". No matter how many times you defeat him, the devil always rises again like a true immortal overlord. Chalk one up for video game realism.

So there you have it: random memories of Satan's Hollow, an interesting, but borderline unfair, antique shooter. If the thought of laser-spearing Satan while listening to The Ride of the Valkyries strikes your fancy, then I suggest you search your local pubs and pizza joints. Although it's available on one of those Midway discs (volume 1, I believe), the actual arcade cabinet features a nifty picture of the devil. That may sound like a useless distinction, but let's be honest; Satan is the only reason anyone remembers this game. Without that full-body portrait, the experience just isn't the same.


Rating: 5/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (May 06, 2007)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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