I’ve been obsessed with Hollow Knight ever since I downloaded it back in June. It is a great entry to the ‘metroidvania’ genre with its hand-drawn art and 2D platforming game mechanics. One of my favorite games of that type is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the original Playstation. Hollow Knight is just as good as that one was and, dare I say, may be even better. I’ve been playing it pretty much non-stop every chance I got, clocking in 61 hours and 18 minutes and 88% completion after I faced the final boss.
The thing is I didn’t know that it was the final boss. Or maybe I did know. Sitting on the last bench and it giving me the ability to see completion percentage should have clued me in enough. Like, I should decide if I want to keep going to the right with only 88%. But I went and killed the final boss anyway. Then the credits started rolling. Then I experienced a very strange reaction when I realized what I had done. It wasn’t joy, it wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, it was more like sadness and bittersweet feelings more than anything. I think I was sad that the adventure came to a symbolic end.
I say symbolic because there is nothing stopping me from trying to hit the last 12% and get to 100. There are some paths that I still have to figure out a way through. Thus far, I’ve been able to do everything without having to consult any online guides and am still going to resist doing that for as long as possible. I’m rather proud of the fact that I was able to do as much as I did without any help and see that last 12% as a challenge to complete, still without help.
I’m not saying the game is easy. Not at all. The first couple of hours were really challenging but in a good way. You learn exactly how the combat mechanics work. Your nail (i.e. your primary weapon and only weapon at the start of the game) has a certain range, and you have to learn how to time your jumps and attacks to strike certain enemies. Once you get that down, all of the other enemies, especially bosses, aren’t so intimidating. They become clinics on learning patterns and opportunities to strike, dodge, and possibly heal. Once you get past the first couple of the tougher enemies and a boss or two, the learning curve drops and you’re free to enjoy exploring the city once known as Hallownest.
Hallownest is just massive. Way larger than I initially thought. The map you refer to over and over again can only be uncovered if you purchase a map of the specific area you’re in, and a quill to mark new areas that aren’t exposed by the purchased map. Maps can be purchased from Conifer, a bug that has taken up cartography of Hallownest upon himself. He can be found in each new area and to find him, all you have to do is listen for his humming. I’ll speak more about sound later. And as sprawling as Hallownest is, there is a fast travel option by way of Stags. Stag beetles were the rapid transit system of the city, allowing you to go between way points quickly. I used the system a few times, but I preferred just backtracking in hopes I find hidden rooms and paths I may have missed the first time. Plus, with new abilities being found such as the Mothwing Cloak that allows a double jump, backtracking is essential to finally reach that ledge or platform that you couldn’t reach before.
The combat mechanics and map exploration aren’t the only enjoyable parts of the game. Hollow Knight is also both a visual and aural treat. The hand-drawn art gives it a certain aesthetic quality that is hard to describe. It feels more organic in a way. I kind of liken it to how people prefer vinyl over CD. There’s just a warmth to it. I don’t know if Team Cherry put in any effects via computer. I choose to believe that they didn’t and that every beautiful frame was from a piece of hand-drawn art.
In terms of audio, this is probably the only game where I would turn the volume up or decide not to even play if I couldn’t hear it. There are important audio clues that tell you of a nearby secret such as a hidden grub, or a part of the environment that can be destroyed to gain access to a new area. The NPC’s that you meet also have their own speech Not only that, the music is hauntingly beautiful. Each zone has it’s own background music. One in particular, whose name escapes me at the moment, was especially enjoyable. I lack the words and writing skill to properly convey just how much I appreciated the music. If this is any indication, as soon as I am done writing this review, I’m going to go buy the soundtrack. And I NEVER buy game soundtracks. It is just that good.
When the topic of video games comes up with my friends, I always ask them if they’ve picked up Hollow Knight yet and they always say no. I find it unbelievable that there are Switch owners who don’t own this game. It is such a great game and I honestly feel like it was a privilege that I experienced it. I can keep playing my save file and try to get that last 12%, but I might actually restart it from scratch in normal mode. I want to try and get 100% before beating the final boss. Also, with the free DLC, Gods & Glory, coming out on August 23rd, the final content pack touted as the largest one yet, I’ll be able to experience the full game as a complete package.
I really can’t gush enough about this game. It’s only $15 on the Nintendo eShop or through Amazon Digital Services. An absolute bargain at that price, I kid you not. The map is just sprawling and the list of achievements gives it plenty of challenging replay value. It may priced like an indie game, but it feels like a major studio release. It should come as no surprise that I give this game 5 out of 5 stars. I can’t think of a single negative thing I can say about it.
Hollow Knight was originally funded on Kickstarter and looking back on that campaign, I see there were certain stretch goals that were never achieved. I really hope they consider opening up another Kickstarter project for this game. I would love to see more game content and would not hesitate in backing their efforts.
As bittersweet as completing the game was, I am really looking forward to starting a new save file. Or two. Those achievements aren’t going to earn themselves.
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