App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Sometimes you just want to play a game to zen out and escape. You aren’t looking for a huge challenge, but you do want something that feels oddly satisfying despite not having much challenge or depth. It’s not clear whether this was the intent of holedown, the latest game from the makers of rymdkapsel, but that’s the itch it ends up scratching. holedown may not have a lot going on in it, but it just feels really, really good to play.
In holedown, you shoot anthropomorphized balls at objects to destroy them to drill down into a planet. Your ultimate goal is to destroy everything to reach the core of each level so you can earn crystals, which allow you to upgrade your drilling capabilities so that you can dig deeper into other planets.
Although it may sound like a confusing premise, playing holedown is an extremely simple affair. All you have to do is drag your finger along the screen to line up the right angle before releasing to fire. From there, your mining balls will bounce around on objects that show how many hits they must take to be destroyed until they eventually find their way back up to the top of the screen, at which point you can shoot again.
If you’re able to reach and break open the core on a level in holedown, you don’t automatically move onto the next level. Instead, you earn a ton of crystals that you can spend on all kinds of upgrades. Most of these upgrades help you become a better miner by doing things like increasing the amount of balls you can launch or the amount of shots you can make in a level before needing to return to the surface.
One of the things you can buy with your crystals though is the ability to upgrade your mining license, which allows you to progress to levels with much tougher objects and a deeper way to travel before hitting the core. This makes holedown a game of taking things at your own pace, which help gives it a really meditative vibe.
holedown’s pacing decision isn’t the only thing that makes it relaxing. The whole game’s aesthetic--it’s smooth, simplistic animations, the chill music, and even the way the game almost purrs at you as you’re lining up a shot--seems tailor-made to make you feel good and forget about anything stressful while you’re playing it.
If you play holedown in short bursts, its ability to lull you into your happy place can surprise and delight you, but the experience can fall apart to a certain extent if you play over longer sessions. Playing a few rounds of holedown back-to-back makes you realize how simple and empty its progression system is. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but the game feels best when played in short bursts.
The bottom line
In a lot of ways, holedown feels like the mobile game equivalent of comfort food. It’s something that’s extremely enjoyable from time to time, but too much of it may not be the best thing for you. If this fits the bill of what you want in your next mobile game purchase, than go ahead and give holedown a try, but if you’re looking for a substantive experience on your phone, you may want to look elsewhere.