The term "nokabe" might not sound familiar to most people, but its content sure is. Nicknamed "Human Tetris" by various YouTube uploaders, the concept is that a person has to go through an oddly shaped hole on an approaching foam wall before being pushed into a pool of water right behind him or her. It's great to see the shapes on the wall and watch people succeed, but witnessing people's failures proved to be even more amusing. As the videos became popular, many TV executives decided to localize the show, keeping the general rules and theme in place. Hole in the Wall may not have sparked viewer interest like the Internet videos, but it's compelling enough to have an audience and an Xbox Live Arcade game to boot.
Hole in the Wall is set up somewhat similarly to the TV show. Each round has you trying to go through wall after wall by filling in the given shape with your body. A meter builds up once you fit in as much of your body as you can, and once the meter fills, the wall is passed. Points are given based on how quickly the meter can be filled before the wall meets its designated zone. On a normal game, you are allowed to fail, but once you do so three times, the round ends before its appointed time, and your character is pushed into the pool of water.
The game features two different modes, both of which can either be played solo or with up to four players split into two teams. Show mode emulates the format of the TV show, where two different teams go head-to-head through multiple rounds trying to get the highest possible score so they can participate in the final round and earn even more points. Each episode tries to follow a theme, though there are times when the scenes don't seem to match the theme at all. The first three rounds of the game play out the same, but the fourth one always has a twist, whether it's a dimly lit wall, a mirrored mode, or other odd spins. Completing all four rounds without failure unlocks a new episode.
The format works well in multiplayer since some new puzzles open up when you tell the game that there are two people in a team. The unfortunate part is that each episode always throws in the same walls, but the order in which they appear is random. Still, this is the mode you'll most likely hit up if you play with friends since the basic concept is too ludicrous to not try.
Quick Survival mode changes up things a bit. You have wall after wall coming at you with no break in between. Once you fail to complete a wall, the game ends, and the final score is tallied up and posted online for all to see.
There are a few things that make this mode worse than Show mode. For one thing, the puzzles are tied to your progress, so puzzles only open up if you've unlocked and completed the episodes in Show mode. If you try out this mode first, you'll quickly cycle through all of the available puzzles. This is also problematic since the game's random wall chooser will often select the same wall twice in a row or repeat wall appearances over a short time period. Finally, the game doesn't seem to increase its difficulty as you progress. No matter how far you are in the mode, each wall always come in at the same speed, and none of the special modes seen in the Show mode's final round make an appearance here. In other words, the only way you can fail is to not participate.
The graphics work on a basic level. Hole in the Wall uses your Xbox Avatar to represent your character, though you only see it during cut scenes of success and failure. No matter what, you'll always don the silver suit, so accessories won't matter here. Aside from the stage, the rest of the set is rather dark, and while you see silhouettes of the audience, the camera pan is too quick to see them animate. Each scene before and after level completion is just a recording of the set fly-by instead of it being done in real time. The compression is bad enough that you see artifacts on the wall path — and that shouldn't be tolerated for such a sterile scene.
The same thing can be said for the sound. The announcer sounds excited enough, so his delivery is neither over-the-top nor sleepy. The audience sounds OK, but you don't get the feeling that it is a large audience watching you, especially since you can clearly hear one or two voices doing most of the cheering or laughing. The musical score is the same one used in the show, so while it feels like it's repetitive, it can be forgiven since the TV show has the same quality.
Hole in the Wall is both fun and short. It's initially amusing to see players try to go through ridiculous shapes, but it is a novelty that wears off quickly if you plan to play it for long periods of time (instead of in the advised short bursts). The dearth of modes is limiting, and the presentation feels too basic for its asking price. Youngsters and fans of the show will enjoy it, but you should wait for it to drop in price lest you feel like you overpaid for the game.
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