You are in control of a small, silent protagonist whose first stop is Dirtmouth; which also functions as the central hub and town. Well, not exactly a town as there are only a couple of shops which need to be unlocked by encountering NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) on your adventure through the long forgotten ruins of the kingdom that is buried underneath Dirtmouth. With only a nail as your weapon (it literally is a nail/needle which is also used by enemies, NPCs and bosses) you set off on a journey to explore. Of course, not without its fair share of trouble.
On your journey through the different areas – which are all connected in one way or another – you will encounter a plethora of enemies and bosses, all unique and memorable. But to get to bosses, you must test your skills in platform jumping and avoiding the numerous traps that are laid out for you to fall into. Hollow Knight is all about you looking every nook and cranny, but ever so often, you will come across a platform that is too high or a pit of spikes too big for you to jump or dash across over. So best remember those spots as there will be abilities that you will come across later in the game that will make you want to revisit places.
Certain abilities help with the platforming and exploration of the game. While others help with the battle against enemies and bosses which come in the form of charms that can be equipped and unequipped at benches (which also allow you to save your progress – think bonfires in Dark Souls). Want to kit yourself out with all different charms to make battles easier? Sure can do! Want to not use a single charm and go at the game with just your wits and nail? Go for it! For the really hardcore ones (even maybe slightly masochist ones) there is a mode that gets unlocked after playing through the game for the first time: Steel Soul Mode. It literally says this when it’s unlocked: “No Shade. No Reviving. Death is Permanent. The Ultimate Challenge.”
Although the gameplay is simple and nothing new, it is very satisfying when you beat bosses and find treasure. Even more so when all of this is accompanied with the beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds, character designs, music and sound effects. Like how a serene soundtrack is played in The City of Tears where it constantly rains or the slightly more upbeat melody in Greenpath that is abundant in fauna, but also acid! All of the characters and enemies are based in one way or another on insect life forms. And even though the majority are rather adorable, there are some nastier looking bugs which will definitely give you the heebie-jeebies. Case in point: Deepnest. That place is filled with spider like enemies that crawl all over the place. The soundtrack to that place as well as the sound effects are certainly not helping it if you have arachnophobia. (It certainly wasn’t fun for me!)
Overall, Hollow Knight is a delight to play with its beautiful art style and even after 30+ hours I still find myself discovering new things that I previously missed. If you love platforming with a beautiful background designs and hand drawn animations, Hollow Knight will be perfect for you. Though there is one area that I just cannot pass, because of the difficult platforming that will make you want to smash your controller…
Team Cherry developed and published Hollow Knight which is currently available on Steam and Humble Bundle. It’s slated to come out this year for the Switch and PS4.
Screenshots/images © Team Cheery; taken during my personal gameplay.