In the interest of getting it off my chest and to not draw out the anticipation I will say now that Hollow Knight is amazing. A breathtaking masterpiece that there ever was. Let it be known right now that I love this game.
Somehow, despite being made by only 4 or so people and on a Kickstarter that somehow only raised $57,138 on a goal of $35,000 it defies all logic how the developer’s Team Cherry churned out such a brilliant title. From the beautiful hand-drawn graphics and the impeccable musical score to the huge overworld and tight gameplay Hollow Knight excels.
For those of you who may not have heard of Hollow Knight it is a part of the Metroidvania genre where you explore a large map and as you get more abilities and items places you may have already passed will open up and you can go back and explore newer sections of the game. This takes place in a placed called Hallow Nest. Every character and enemy are bugs or tiny creatures of some kind. Beetles, worms, spiders, etc. This makes Hollow Knight’s setting very fresh and mysterious and allows for all kinds of areas. For instance, a late game one is a beehive dripping full of honey and fat bumblebees.
Graphically this game is entirely hand drawn. It looks gorgeous and has a large color palette as the game progresses. Starting off in a dreary purple, gray, and black section you will progress to greens, blues, yellow, white, and all kinds of gorgeous areas. The enemy variety is appropriately filling as well and generally you will find enemy types in matching areas. It helps to always have places to look forward to exploring.
And explore you shall! If you are the kind of gamer who cannot stand to explore on your own or needs obvious targets to look for Hollow Knight may not be a perfect fit for you. Early on the game it is fairly linear and obvious but quickly you will be completely hands free. This is one of my few knocks against the game. From around the 3-8 hour mark you will likely get very annoyed trying to figure out what to do. There are so many options early in the game (yes 3-8 hours is early for this game. It took me 30 hours to beat!) and it feels like every time you go to one you get blocked because you will not yet have a necessary movement ability like wall jump, or double jump among others. If I could have suggested one improvement to the developers it would be to just be a little hand holdy for a little bit longer until you get a second movement ability. From there the game absolutely shines until the very end.
Plays like a dream
Combat in Hollow Knight is easy to learn but tough to master. Again as the game progresses you unlock more abilities but ultimately it boils down to you having your blade, called a Nail, and a few magic spells. Combine those two with jumping and that is the very essence of combat. The jumping and movement in the game is the snappiest best feeling platformers I have played in years. It simply FEELS good to jump around in. I played it with an Xbox One controller and had no issues using the joystick as my means of movement. Also, thanks to a Charm system wherein you can unlock perks that you can equip a set number of with Charm slots you are more than capable of not only specialize in abilities to help you explore or kill bosses but also ones that fit your own personal playstyle. I had a lot of fun reading other players’ list of charms they used to get through a certain part and see how different it was for every other player including myself. It adds a nice personal touch that simply getting new abilities or level ups does not provide. For instance I mostly specialized in abilities that increased the range of my Nail and defensive abilities. Many others like to focus on a magic build. If you get stuck on a tough boss then feel free to experiment.
Speaking of bosses there are many in this game! Only a few are required to beat to finish the game but the rest give valuable items or are necessary to unlock the True Ending. Normally I hate battling bosses in videogames. Tedious slogs, uncreative damage-sponges, or just plain bad. Every single boss in Hollow Knight is creative and terrific fun to battle. Some are fairly easy, others feel bone-crushingly difficult. And yet every time I battled one that was tough I had the itch to just try again. And again. And again. Every time you will feel that you are getting just a little bit better at winning. This feeling was my motivation to continue. Despite there being no level-ups you get a real sense of personal experience and getting better. Every new fight and area hones your abilities and knowledge of limitations. By the end of the game being able to gauge just how far you dash is important to know how to dodge attacks and traps. The itch will get to you. The final boss had me beaten I settled with getting just the regular ending and vowing to come back much later. But for 2 days I could not get it out of my head. Went back and again I persisted. Death after death I refused to give up. And finally, on my final hit, at the same time the boss took out my final Mask, I won. Unlocking the true ending but also the very real sense of personal satisfaction that came with succeeding through such a difficult but fun challenge came.
I can go on and on but really there is no point. This is a review after all. The music in the game is fantastically on-point. Every song fits the mood and theme of its respective area and flows smoothly from beat to beat. The soundtrack is a few extra bucks on top of the game when buying through Steam or GOG and I recommend going for it if you decide to buy the game.
Team Cherry has promised and already started delivering additional content, both free and paid DLC. It is a great gesture to do on a game that already takes anywhere from 25 hours to beat and about 40 or so to 100%. For reference, I beat the True Ending and 91% completion at just under 33 hours.
I do have some minor complaints of course. As I said earlier the game perhaps allows you to be too free just a little too soon and this hurts the pacing some early on. Some benches, which are rest points where you return after you die or continue the game after exiting are just too far away from the fast travel Stag stations and causes some annoyance at having to revisit the same areas too many times for no good reason. (Note they have added in a free update that alleviates this some but still wanted to make a point of it).
I give Hollow Knight a 5 out of 5, 10/10, 100% whatever the highest score in your given rating system I give to Hollow Knight.
Better than the wildest of bug dreams could imagine
I obtained this game My wife bought me a copy of it on GOG I played 32h 44m to 91% completion and the True Ending