Everyone and their neighbour has been raving about this Metroidvania masterpiece since it released last year for PC and it has finally made its console debut. So, sharpen a nail and prepare to explore a haunting bug-filled world.
Hollow Knight takes place within a massive underground kingdom known as Hallownest that's filled with all sorts of insects. Not much is explained about its story so it's up to you to explore and piece together the lore of its unorthodox world yourself. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Anyway, you play as a pint-sized ghost-like warrior. Although the little fellow isn't very capable at the start of his adventure, you'll eventually acquire a plethora of new abilities that allow him to do things such as scale walls, shoot magic blasts, double-jump, etc. The controls are super-tight but they take some getting used to. For example, you get knocked back a little when you strike an enemy which takes a little while to adapt to. As you progress, you'll meet tons of challenging bosses and uncover loads of secret goodies and it all adds up to a supremely rewarding experience.
I must say, Hollow Knight is one of the best looking and sounding games ever. Its visuals are perfect for its mysterious and unconventional world as cute characters contrast with eerie environments to constantly keep you feeling uneasy. In fact, you'll meet many NPCs along the way and a lot of them aren't exactly who you assume them to be. With so many unexpectedly nefarious twists and turns just waiting to be unveiled, it can be an alarmingly disturbing game but I definitely don't want to ruin anything. The soundtrack matches this consistently creepy vibe beautifully with gorgeously subtle orchestral music that'll occasionally make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. All of that being said, I am a bit disappointed that the overall somber tone never really changes throughout. I would have loved to see some variety in this regard but there's still no denying just how masterfully presented Hollow Knight is.
Hollow Knight might just be the biggest 2D Metroidvania game ever created. It's at least the longest one that I've ever played and I've played dozens of them. Some gamers have even played for 50 hours and still haven't uncovered everything. Speaking of which, there are a ton of treasures to find throughout the map. The most notable collectible is charms as they have the potential to drastically change your play style. You can choose to be more mobile, stronger, focus on using various magic abilities, and many other configurations. Of course, you'll find items that increase your maximum health and soul (which is basically magic power) and you can even strengthen your weapon at a blacksmith. The combat itself is tight and primarily relies on your ability to spot enemy patterns so you can take advantage of their moments of weakness. There's nothing more satisfying than parrying an attack only to then land the killing blow.
Even though Hollow Knight is an amazing game, it isn't quite perfect. For starters, I found the pacing to be rather sporadic and frequently drawn-out. Sometimes, you can play for a couple hours while consistently making progress and acquiring new abilities and upgrades. Other times, you might not come across any new features for hours and it's also extremely easy to get lost. Your time spent playing Hollow Knight whenever it lulls like this can feel pretty tedious but once things start to pick up again, it makes it all worthwhile.
Finally, there are a lot of frustrating moments throughout. In my opinion, the most annoying thing is when you don't realise that there's a hazard above or below you so you keep moving only to end up receiving a surprise attack or falling into a pool of acid. You can pan the camera but no one in their right mind would do that every single time they jump. Many gamers have complained about the death system where your ghost is left wherever you die and you have to kill it again to reclaim your money and full soul gauge but I didn't really have a problem with this aspect at all. Another frustrating aspect is the boss fights. Sure, some are brutally challenging (ahem, Soul Master) but that's okay. It's the fact that you often have to journey a long and perilous trek back to try a boss again that's annoying.
Hollow Knight is a huge and rewarding adventure that's full of satisfying secrets and challenges. It's not a perfect Metroidvania experience but it's definitely up there with the best in the genre.
- + Tight controls with challenging boss fights and rewarding Metroidvania exploration
- + Stunning visuals, animation, and sound
- + Huge campaign that's packed with secrets
- - Sporadic and often drawn-out pacing
- - Somber tone never really changes
- - Many frustrating moments