Review: Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight combines somber visual design with tight metroidvania gameplay.

Hollow Knight is an exceedingly strong debut from the three-man indie development team, Team Cherry. In Hollow Knight, you play as the eponymous beetle-hero, adventuring through descending layers of insect inhabited underground environments, sprawling in all directions with tunnels and mysteries. Your quest, to uncover the secrets hidden beneath the town of Dirtmouth. The cohesion and vividness of the visual design is immediately apparent. The character outlines are simple, yet memorable and unique. Team Cherry’s artist and animator, Ari Gibson, has created an excellent balance between minimalistic cartoon-bug aesthetics and gloomy, melancholic atmosphere.

You can save your progress by taking a breath on a bench, a mechanic reminiscent of the Dark Souls bonfires. Each checkpoint-bench is a beautifully illustrated break in your quest.

Hollow Knight feels snappy and satisfying, it’s gameplay a mixture of puzzle platformer and 2D action game. Much like its inspirations, the Metroid and Castlevania series’, the game’s driving player motivation is the exploration of new areas. The game’s most obvious nod to the metroidvania genre, is the layout of the game map. The platforming environment is formed from complex, intersecting areas, where the player is free to adventure, at least to a point. The mapping system in Hollow Knight is a nice spin on the metroidvania formula, newly discovered locations are only added to your map once you return to a bench to save your game. This makes it feel like you are setting out on tiny expeditions to chart the world every time you set off from a checkpoint. By unlocking new movement skills, like the dash, and various attack spells, you gain access to new areas or reveal new locations from your previous travels. While the combat encounter difficulty in Hollow Knight is quite high, the soul energy system offers some extra survivability. When you slay hostile bugs, your automatically gather energy, that can be used to heal lost healthpoints.

Team Cherry has succeeded in reinterpreting the metroidvania concept, and have managed to create a unique bug-world both in terms of visual design and narrative feel. For anyone partial to sprawling and challenging platformer adventures, Hollow Knight offers an atmospherically charged and refreshing underground to explore.

Developer and publisher: Team Cherry
Release date: 24.2.2017
Platform: PC, IOS and Linux
Age rating: N/A