The Excavation of Hob's Barrow (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 16.06.2023

Review for The Excavation of Hob

Wadjet Eye Games have an excellent track record when it comes to both their developed titles and published works. Between the likes of Primordia, Strangeland, and their own Unavowed, few studios boast such an impressive roster of point-and-click adventures. The Excavation of Hob's Barrow is the latest of Wadjet Eye Games' horror offerings. Developed by Cloak and Dagger Games and set in moody Victorian England, The Excavation of Hob's Barrow puts players in the shoes of Thomasina Bateman as she discovers horrors the likes of which she could never even imagine.

The Excavation of Hob's Barrow takes place in the simple, lonely village of Bewlay, a surprisingly mundane setting coming off Wadjet Eye Games' previous titles. This is exactly what ends up being Hob's Barrow' strength, however: hiding horror in the mundane. If anything, the fact Bewlay feels so much realer lends the playthrough a tense atmosphere that's hard to shake off. It also makes things significantly more impactful when the supernatural elements do ramp up, clashing reality with horror in often harsh juxtapositions. It's a more methodical approach than the rest of Wadjet Eye Games' catalogue, but it works well here and highlights Cloak and Dagger Games' own individuality as developers.

The title's presentation is high quality, as is to be expected from any Wadjet Eye point-and-click. Character sprites and backgrounds are wonderfully detailed, courtesy of some incredible pixel art. It's easy to figure out who and what can be interacted with based on visuals alone, but the art style's greatest boon is its ability to sucker punch the player with jarringly detailed close-ups and a wide range of colour. The Excavation of Hob's Barrow has an at times dreamy aesthetic, using rain and foggy weather to obscure visibility, and dynamic lighting to set a mood. Dark rooms are sometimes illuminated only by natural light and what candles are stationed around. Surreal purple shading and eclectic colouring give Thomasina's dreams an unmistakably ethereal quality.

Screenshot for The Excavation of Hob's Barrow on Nintendo Switch

The sound design, in particular, does an excellent job at immersing the player into Bewlay. The sound of rain dripping on the ground, fire crackling, or the wind howling through empty rooms create a profound sense of unease. The soundtrack is soft and rarely bombastic, but almost always chilling, with unnerving notes lingering under the surface and highlighting that all is not as it seems. The story rarely feels traditionally scary, but the creepiness is unrelenting. Through its visuals, music, and careful sound design, The Excavation of Hob's Barrow strives to instil fear into its audience by making them feel alone and isolated in a village where Thomasina shouldn't trust anyone.

Bewlay's atmosphere ranges from mundane, over surprisingly cozy, to creepy and overwhelmingly unsettling. H. P. Lovecraft's and M. R. James' inspiration can be felt all over, but not to the point where the script feels like it's aping better authors. Rather, the Lovecraftian and Jamesian influences simply lay a foundation for Hob's Barrow to create its own brand of horror; one that does line up with Lovecraftian storytelling conventions, but still has a clear identity and personality of its own, rooted in Bewlay as a setting.

Screenshot for The Excavation of Hob's Barrow on Nintendo Switch

The gameplay is standard point-and-click adventure fare. Thomasina can interact with objects to examine or pick them up, use her own tools to solve puzzles, or speak with NPCs in order to advance the plot and gather more information. Unlike Wadjet Eye Games' previous titles, the gameplay loop here is considerably more story driven. Players will spend most of their time exploring and investigating Bewlay instead of solving puzzles. The onus is more so on talking to villagers, figuring out Bewlay's history, and piecing together what's actually going on with the eponymous Hob's Barrow.

This does unfortunately mean that anyone looking for in-depth puzzle solving will walk away unfulfilled. That said, the actual puzzle quality is not poor, they simply aren't the playthrough's focus and what puzzles there are ultimately feel simple when stacked against titles like Unavowed or Strangeland. Most tend to be basic logic puzzles that are usually easy to solve so long as players are paying attention. For what it's worth, the final chapter goes all-out when it comes to puzzles and the focus on story above all else does admittedly help the script move at an excellent pace. Audiences never have to worry about getting stuck in their tracks because of an obtuse puzzle (but they'll never feel particularly challenged either).

Screenshot for The Excavation of Hob's Barrow on Nintendo Switch

At the end of the day, lighter puzzles really aren't a huge issue since the story itself is so well written and compelling. Thomasina is a fantastic protagonist, and her unconventional arc helps her stand out amongst other point-and-click adventurers. She feels profoundly human and grounded, but never so much where Hob's Barrow's fantastical elements come off out of place. Her reactions and "fish out of water" status are key elements that help the narrative craft such an unnerving tone. Everyone in the cast has a distinct voice and manner of speech. No two characters sound or act alike. NPCs range from hostile, over suspiciously friendly, to completely indifferent, which lends conversations a tense atmosphere where it's never clear who has Thomasina's best interests in mind. Clocking in at roughly 5 hours, the narrative also moves at a brisk pace while putting aside enough time to breathe. The player's time rarely feels wasted and every scene helps build towards the last chapter.

What really brings the story to the next level is its final sequence and ending. Without spoiling anything, The Excavation of Hob's Barrow builds towards a sucker-punch of a finale that'll stick with players long after the title ends. Some audiences will be put off by the ending and its extremely dark tone, but it's frankly the best conclusion the script could have asked for. Genuinely bold, frightening, and uncomfortable in a way that only a Lovecraftian-inspired plot could be. Cloak and Dagger Games have a genuine gem on their hands, one glinted in purple terror.

Screenshot for The Excavation of Hob's Barrow on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

What The Excavation of Hob's Barrow lacks in puzzle density and difficulty, it more than makes up for in ambience, presentation quality, and a story that'll stick with audiences long after the credits roll. Wadjet Eye Games are no stranger to dark, uncomfortable storytelling, but Thomasina's time in Bewlay reaches a level of unsettling that's genuinely hard to shake off. Haunting atmosphere, chilling music, and an unshakeable feeling of dread all culminate in an unforgettable ending that'll either make or break the story for players. Yet, the fact Cloak and Dagger Games end Thomasina's journey on such a bold note is exactly what elevates the script to a more profound, mature level. It may not be their best, but The Excavation of Hob's Barrow is Wadjet Eye Games' most memorable nightmare yet.


Cloak and Dagger


Wadjet Eye

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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