I know I’m a little late to the party here. I mean, Hollow Knight spent almost the last two years getting all manner of praise heaped upon it. If you’re interested in platformers at all, you’ve probably already heard how good the game is, and you don’t need me to convince you. All that said though, I knew about the game (and its reputation) for a long time before I finally decided to give it a try. So if you’re still undecided or still don’t really know what kind of game Hollow Knight is, then maybe I can help you out after all.
So, what exactly is Hollow Knight anyway? Simply put, it’s a metroidvania game that does metroidvania better than than either Metroid or Castlevania. Put even more simply, Hollow Knight is a game about a lone wanderer exploring a hostile world while fending-off increasingly powerful enemies. One one think that any game could pull-off such a premise, but it’s really not that easy. This is especially true now since the genre is old and there are several pinnacle games which more or less define it. Despite that though, Hollow Knight still distinguishes itself, and quite easily at that.
Everything in this game works together to make it stand out from the rest, but if I had to choose one quality in particular it would have to be its combat system. Your knight starts out with a basic slash attack. Tap a button, he swings the sword. Easy. He can do a quick swing in four directions: up, down, left and right. He can also jump and swing downward simultaneously. More abilities get added as the game progresses, but this quick attack will function as your bread and butter throughout the entirety of Hollow Knight. This is combined with a “Soul Meter” which powers all of your knight’s special abilities. It’s these two mechanics combined that makes Hollow Knight feel compelling gameplay-wise.
From the beginning, the player’s knight has the ability to heal himself. Doing so takes about a third of the Soul Meter, and requires 2 seconds to restore a hit point. This means that while healing is always accessible, one won’t always have the resources or opening to do so. It’s also in the player’s best interest to attack most enemies they come across. Striking enemies with the sword restores the Soul Meter, and since you will constantly be taking hits or in need of access to your more powerful abilities, you’ll want to take every opportunity to replenish. Doing so always carries risk though, as even a weak enemy can take a full hit point if one plays carelessly. This creates a constant sense of tension and a need to press onward. Should you fall though, don’t despair. Your knight will spawn a ghost that will linger in that room until you recover it. Do so and you get everything back that you lost. Die again though, and all will be gone (sounds like another notable game, doesn’t it).
Of course, this system isn’t the only thing Hollow Knight has going for it. It’s world is more alien than even Metroid, making it easy to lose oneself in the drive to explore it. The art is absolutely gorgeous; the characters always stand out from the backgrounds; the sound design is on point, and the music has a beautiful and haunting quality to it. Hollow Knight absorbs the player into its world just like any good Metroid game, and I suppose that’s what really seals the deal for me. If you love Metroid or metroidvania at all, then you owe it to yourself to try Hollow Knight. It really is that good.
Have you played Hollow Knight yet? What part do you enjoy the most? If you haven’t, what’s your favorite game like it?
Lede image is an official promotional screenshot from the Hollow Knight Steam page.