It’s not often that a game grabs me quite like Hollow Knight has. It’s beautifully crafted world, filled to the absolute brim with rich characters and near endless secrets to discover, has me coming back time and time again.
Nearly ten hours after completing the main objective, and I’m still discovering at a rampant pace, with a large enough backlog of unfinished quests to see that this game isn’t going to let me go any time soon.
Hollow Knight sees you take control of a bug. A bug on a quest. What quest, you might ask? Well, from the outset you’ll be asking yourself that very question.
Story related information is relayed to you in dribs and drabs, with most of it being completely optional. The world is so cleverly put together. You’ll come across a statue, and wonder what the deal is with that, and later on, with enough exploring, you’ll find the answer, often by chance, but always by design.
The game falls into the somewhat newly established “Metroidvania” genre, so you’ll be spending your time coming across locked doors, etc., requiring you to backtrack until you find a power-up or key you may have missed, in order to progress.
Combat works very similarly to how it does in the Castlevania games. You’ve got a jump, you’ve got an attack, you’ve got a dodge. Put them together, with a sprinkle of Hollow Knight’s brilliant design, and you’ve got combat that feels as deep as Dark Souls, only on a 2D plane.
Speaking of, major inspiration has been taken from said series. The way in which you discover the story, for one thing, rings very familiar. But it’s the traversal that really takes a lot of the established ideas, and inputs them perfectly into this style of game-play.
Slowly finding the world and all it’s areas to be interconnected, breaking down initially unreachable barriers from within a connected area to form a passage-way for ease of travel. All these things blend the worlds of Dark Souls and the Metroidvania genre beautifully.
Exploring this world is made fantastically immersive thanks to some sombre, quiet, fitting tracks. Think Breath of the Wild, where the music ramps up only when completely necessary, making those dramatic moments, all the more heart-pounding.
I must add that the art style they went with is one that was built to bend to the will of the game-play, and I find that to be wonderful.
It’s simplistic, but with some incredible details in it’s backgrounds. Characters are drawn with heavy outlines and colours, and whilst always sticking to the limited palette, are stark enough for your eyes to immediately know what’s what without a second thought.
You know what is happening on-screen at all times. There is never a moment of confusion. Enemies moves are always well choreographed, giving you just enough time to think “Uh oh.” before either dodging or, well, getting hit. But you’re hit hard with a lesson.
An area where this design is really put to the test, and thankfully for the most part, shines, are the boss fights.
You’ll be jumping, dodging, panting, sweating, waiting for your opening to get that one hit in. And let me be straight with you, this is not an easy game by any means, but the boss fights, the boss fights are where things really get serious.
For the most part these are really fun, you’ll be tested to the absolute limit on your understanding of the combat. However in one or two cases, I find the bosses to be designed in such a way where you weren’t given the opportunity for premeditation.
You’d be thinking “Oh where’d they go” and suddenly they’re on your head and you’re down two hearts. I find this to be especially true in the “Watcher Knights” battle, where they are often off-screen and you kinda just don’t know what’s going on.
This is but a small nit-pick on an otherwise astounding game, though. Everything about Hollow Knight is refined to such a brilliant standard, it’s hard to fault it.
The game-play is tight and fun to control, the music is fitting and beautiful, the game-design is at a level that is extremely rare, even the art lends itself to all these factors and yet manages to be incredible. Every screenshot can and should be framed and hung.
This world is one I don’t want to forget, or ever have to leave behind, and seemingly won’t, as there is a large chunk of DLC yet to come titled “Godmaster” which features new quests, characters, boss fights, etc.
It releases on August 23rd for Switch and PC too, so I don’t have long to wait!
My final score for Hollow Knight is…
Hollow Knight achieves a rare mix of intelligent design, with character, heart and a clear passion by the developers to make something special.
Team Cherry have outdone themselves for a first release, and I cannot wait to see what they’ve got planned for the future.
Game reviewed on Nintendo Switch.