I don’t even like bugs. Insects, in general, can just shove it. So how in the world I was drawn to Hollow Knight I’ll never be able to recall – but it’s probably because Hollow Knight, the insectoid-ravaged maze that it is, is simply an incredible indie game. 27 hours in, more than a day in my existence, and I’ve beaten the game, but only completed 77% of the entire experience. So yeah, I’m still interested in delving back into the shadowy dankness that makes up Hollow Knight’s extensive world.
Let’s open with the badass protagonist: a nail-wielding (call it a sword if you like), brooding, and mysterious creature. Do I even know what type of insect my guy is? Is he even a guy? Doesn’t matter! He’s one of the cutest little badass insects around and he’s a blast to control. As Knightguy (like Doomguy, get it) you’ll slash, jump and launch your way through one perilous area after another (all of which you’ll most likely return to many more times before you complete whatever overall quest it is that you’re on).
Hollow Knight’s formula isn’t groundbreaking. As you fight and progress through areas, you’ll pick up abilities that open even more areas, you’ll uncover secrets, and you’ll (hopefully) vanquish several challenging and unique bosses. There’s not even that much to the progression system as your powerups/abilities are mostly derived from new items or ability pickups rather than some unique RPG system…but nobody ever said simple was bad. Like any good Metroidvania, Hollow Knight’s near-ceaseless ability to open new pathways to rewarding items and fun challenges is the true heart of Hollow Knight, and it had me hurrying home during my lunch hour many times during the work week just to see what I could uncover with that single hour.
The story plays out in text-based interactions with the remaining populace of an insect kingdom gone rotten. You may not think it on the surface, because c’mon, you’re already underground, but things got even worse from there for the kingdom’s residents. Something, or someone, has turned most everyone mad, and none of them like you, obviously. Uncovering Hollow Knight’s story isn’t as challenging as, say, in Dark Souls, but little is fully revealed until late-game, which I won’t spoil for all you readers who are obviously going to take my recommendation and pick up Hollow Knight right away!
Only a few remaining bugs are friendly, and those mostly reside in the top-most underground area to be found, Dirtmouth. You’ll encounter a handful of friendly shopkeepers and other denizens as you travel about, but your primary ‘friend’ is Hornet, and there’s plenty reason to be excited about this character, which I’ll cover later.
Hornet doesn’t actually like you either. Really, Knightguy just can’t catch a break! But she’s your primary source of information and you’ll encounter (and of course, fight her) several times throughout your journey.
If you hadn’t yet picked up on it, Hollow Knight is a 2D platformer. It plays smoothly, and it better because you’ll be using a lot of abilities to fend off foes while avoiding the hazards of the world as you do so. The game regularly tests your ability to multitask, and when it does, nicely breaks up the calmness that can overtake as you explore its serene wasteland. And yeah, there are some areas that present a solid challenge here, but Hollow Knight is a fair game, and its difficulty rarely impedes the joy of exploration.
For all the work that Team Cherry did to darken up the scenery (because, again, underground!) the visuals really pop, especially in the many bright areas that have just enough light showing overhead, through some ever-so-slim tunnel to the surface, that there’s a meld of atmosphere and spectacular color that’s reminiscent of the Northern Lights.
Hollow Knight is a joy top-to-bottom, and as it’s been out now since 2017, it’s another pretty cheap grab that I can heartily recommend. I bet y’all can’t wait till I review a bad game. I can’t, because I have some fun writing about bad things. Anyone see the Barstool pizza guy rip apart a bad pizza? That’s me when my food is bad, and my video games too.
But Hollow Knight isn’t bad, Hollow Knight is spectacular. Grab it on any current-gen console, or on PC.
And oh yeah, if this one isn’t enough for you (spoiler, you’ll want more), Hollow Knight: Silksong, the sequel to Hollow Knight, has already been announced and should pop up on Nintendo Switch as soon this year (yeah, just the Switch at first, for whatever reason).