Holstin is a psychological survival horror from Polish developer and publisher Sonka. Set in an uncanny desolate 90’s Polish town – Jeziorne-Kolonia – shrouded in an ominous presence. You play as Tomasz looking for your friend through the grime and muck that’s plagued the town. From the wildlife, people and buildings – all are deteriorating from the inside out. Will you escape before the town with your mind intact?
The Steam page describes you as no hero, but you will have the strength to survive the night; if you trawl through the depths to scavenge for supplies and ammunition to keep the monstrosities at bay. Questions and puzzles are tied to the townsfolk who are slowly losing their mind. Isolated between life and death – edging towards their insanity – indulging in their delusions may be the key. It seems to follow some of the hallmark survival horror features of item management, key item scouting and sparse methodical combat.
Holstin Your Seat Belts…
Though Holstin is undoubtedly an early front-runner for being a survival horror indie hit joining the prestige of 2022’s Signalis, it won’t be through sheer fear factor alone. Sonka’s in-house technology boasts 3D dynamic real-time lighting throughout all eight angles of the delightfully horrifying hand-drawn pixel art. The lighting also plays a potential part in the mechanics of traversing through the levels unscathed, adding a unique and interesting element into the mix.
The game also features full voice acting in both Polish and English – if you’ve watched the trailer you’ll know the actors give bone chilling performances that only add to the claustrophobic psychological thrills. The soundtrack to the gameplay is equally as eerie, with deep drones and foreboding piano melodies.
Silent Thrill (Demo Impressions by Miles Thompson)
As of the time of writing, Holstin has 1 out of 3 demos currently available to try out for yourself. The first, and only, playable one explores the Janowski house. In typical horror-esque fashion, we’re locked in a house, rain is bucketing down outside, slimy Cthulhu tendrils block our access and darkness envelopes all around you.
The house is a showcase for the dripping level of creepy atmosphere and the kinds of puzzles we’ll be expected to overcome. It’s a lot of old-school navigation, inventory management and clicking on virtually everything you come across. You may only have one fuse to power 4 areas of the house or a single lightbulb to swap between lamps to temporarily remove the tendrils, for example.
Of the 40 minutes the demo took me to complete, much was spent scouring the house, chopping and changing fuses and lightbulbs, figuring out what contraption unlocks what. It’s like playing the original Resident Evil, minus the zombies (so far). Which, I have to say, was a really good time.
Bull In A Horror Shop (Demo Impressions Part 2)
Holstin nails a few elements that really immerse you into its world. Firstly, the environments are superbly detailed and fleshed out. Much like RE7s Baker House, the Janowski house is flush with oozing liquids, upended, decrepit furniture and more shadows than a fire-spitting convention. It helps that Sonka have added touches like destructible objects and real-time collision to enhance the sense of this being a living space. The lighting is awesome too, really good stuff on show here.
Secondly, the puzzles in the demo a perfect balance of logical challenge without being frustrating or time-wasting. Exploration is the primary motivator and uncovering different items from rooms and using the rotating camera to discover a well-hidden item or doorway was rewarding. Even the couple of points that stumped me for a moment only required me to use my brain a bit more or experiment with things. I never felt like Holstin was deliberately holding me up, rather encouraging me to think laterally.
Lastly, the demo ran buttery smooth and performance-wise it was impressive to have no hiccups whatsoever, especially given it’s still relatively far from full release.
The pixel-art PSX style graphics are wonderful and I’m excited to see what more they can do with this game given the brilliant introduction the demo provides. My only gripe is having to manually access items in your inventory when trying to interact with an object (a prompt would make it feel more seamless) and that I now have to wait to play more of it.
You’re In For a Bumpy Ride!
As mentioned before, you can try out the Janowski house portion for yourself via the demo now. In Q2 and Q3 of this year, Sonka have planned to release 2 further demos which will provide the opportunity to try out combat and see the wider quest design with NPCs. It’s admirable they’re showing off so much of the game in advance to give people the chance to try out. I suspect it will only drum up more excitement.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on Holstin, Sonka are currently dropping steam codes on their twitter for those quick enough to nab. They’ve also got a tab on their Steam page for Playtesting access if that interests you. However, if you’re not on PC, Holstin’s full release will also be coming to consoles. No confirmation as and when but we’re keeping a close eye on this one for any updates.
Check out Holstin’s Steam page here
(Source: Holstin Steam Page)