Hollow Knight
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Hollow Knight is an action-packed Metroidvania title with a fascinating and sprawling game world to explore. This world is also inhabited by some of the genre’s strangest and most fascinating enemies and NPCs. Completing the game provides a nice challenge, but players determined to uncover every secret and ending will be surprised to see how much is lurking beneath the cute exterior of Hollow Knight.

Gameplay: Hollow Knight is an absolute blast to play, and there’s so much to see and do that players can easily lose hours in Hallownest.

Graphics: The 2D visuals are charming, and the character designs, as well as unique areas, make for a memorable experience.

Sound: Everything from the haunting soundtrack to the strange language spoken by the bugs is superb

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Hollow Knight

Developer: Team Cherry | Publisher: Team Cherry | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Platformer / Metroidvania / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Hollow Knight opens with an excerpt from an elegy followed by a cryptic cut-scene before handing over the controls to players. After spending a bit of time getting used to the responsive controls, players arrive at the gloomy town of Dirtmouth. Here, they are informed of the ancient, ruined kingdom that can be found just below the town. Some venture into the depths searching for riches or glory, while others risk their lives seeking the answers to old secrets. Unfortunately, not much is initially known about the motivations of the silent protagonist, but one thing is for sure, the kingdom below the surface beckons.

Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania title starring an insectoid warrior on a quest through the vast interconnected caverns of Hallownest. Initially, the brave knight is armed only with a short sword, called a nail, but additional abilities and spells await in the mysterious depths. In true Metroidvania fashion, Hollow Knight ensures that players have to work for each by overcoming the environmental hazards, numerous enemies, and bosses that stand in their way. Each victory slowly opens up more of the game world, but every step along the way is fraught with peril. Players who do not tread carefully will soon find that there is a reason why not many of those venturing into Hallownest ever return.

From a visual standpoint, Hollow Knight makes excellent use of 2D, hand-drawn art to create its gloomy yet beautiful world. The bug and beast theme extends to all of the enemies and NPCs that players will encounter as well as the varied regions of Hallownest. Some, like Greenpath and Queens Gardens, are teeming with new life, while others, like the spider-infested mazes of Deepnest, have a completely different look and feel. The use of some nice background and foreground details, along with nice lighting effects, help flesh out each biome. In addition, each region has its own unique enemies to deal with, along with plenty of hidden secrets. The character designs and environmental details of Hollow Knight are top-notch, which makes it a pleasure to explore each area. Most of the characters are armor-clad insects, but players will also encounter some interesting beasts along the way.

Likewise, the game’s soundtrack is really good, and even after spending close to fifty hours exploring every nook and cranny of the game, the music never became repetitive. Once again, each area has its own musical theme that matches its atmosphere. Some of the songs can be haunting, but a few tracks are a little more hopeful and upbeat. The excellent sound design extends to the effects, too, and we particularly liked the strange gibberish-sounding language of the bug NPCs. It added to their unique personalities and came in useful when tracking some of them down as they can be heard from a distance. Playing Hollow Knight with a controller is highly recommended as the protagonist eventually has quite an arsenal of moves at their disposal. Thankfully, the controls are tight and responsive, which means players can overcome even the most demanding boss battles or trickiest platforming sections with enough practice.

While Hollow Knight has a lot of lore to discover, it also leaves players to their own devices for the most part. Luckily there is so much to see and do on the sprawling map that players rarely have time to wonder what they are supposed to be doing next. There’s always something to buy after scrounging up enough Geo, which is the currency in the game, another mask shard to track down to increase your health, or a vessel fragment to find for carrying around extra Soul. Health is self-explanatory, but Soul acts like mana in the game and is used for casting spells after learning them. Soul is also vital as it can be used to heal the protagonist by holding down a button. The effect is not instantaneous, so it cannot be spammed during boss battles but can make a big difference if used strategically. Luckily, Soul can be refilled by hitting enemies, which are usually plentiful.

Hollow Knight embraces the Souls-like element of penalizing players for death. If your character dies, they will respawn back at the nearest bench where they rested. These benches serve as the checkpoints in the game and a way to refill health. However, using them also respawns all the enemies in the area. After players respawn at a bench, they will have to track down their own ghost in the place where they were killed to retrieve the Geo that they dropped and restore their Soul vessel.

Benches are important for another reason, which is the swapping of charms. Charms are unique items that can provide the protagonist with all kinds of useful benefits. From automatically picking up Geo in the area to some helpful spider companions, there are plenty of reasons to seek out the charms and equip them. However, each charm takes up a certain amount of notches, so players have to think strategically. Some charms are helpful for exploration, while others are geared towards boss battles, so by the end of the game, we had a few favorite sets that we cycled between depending on our objectives.

Hollow Knight is quite a challenging game, but a lot of its content is optional, and most players should be able to complete it without too much trouble. However, players who want to experience everything the game offers and view all the endings are in for a much sterner challenge. Some of the optional areas, such as the White Palace, also surprised us with how much harder they are, but overcoming these challenges is also very rewarding. We definitely recommend exploring every nook and cranny of Hollow Knight as some of the optional stuff, such as Zote and his delusions of grandeur, provide some of the best moments of the game.

Because Hollow Knight is such a massive game, it can be overwhelming at times, and it is easy to end up feeling lost a lot of times. In fact, players do not automatically get a map of each new area and must first track down a cartographer in said area to buy it. Even then, the map is just a basic outline, which players then have to fill in by exploring before resting on a bench to make the new additions visible. Players even have to travel to town and buy special markers before things like vendors, merchants, and so on are visible on the map. Thankfully, new additions such as wall jumps, double jumping, and air dashing make it easier to traverse earlier areas faster. The game also features plenty of shortcuts to open up and a fast travel system in the form of Stag Stations.

There’s no denying that Hollow Knight sticks pretty closely to the tried and tested Metroidvania formula, but thanks to the unique setting, beautiful art, and great level designs still stand out head and shoulders from the crowd. From rescuing imprisoned grubs and battling in the Colosseum of Fools to helping a mourning NPC find peace by delivering a delicate flower to a grave, there is rarely a dull moment in the game. On top of the mountain of content in the game, Team Cherry went and added some free post-release DLC, too, with additional quests, bosses, music, and much more.

While Hollow Knight won’t appeal to players looking for a linear adventure with lots of hand-holding, it is one of the finest Metroidvania titles available on PC and a must-have for all fans of the genre. As with all souls-like games, it can be frustrating at times, and there’s a sharp increase in difficulty between some areas, but these pale in comparison to the epic, sprawling adventure that awaits players in the game.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 (64bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E5200
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 9800GTX+ (1GB)
  • DirectX: Version 10
  • Storage: 9 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
  • OS: Windows 10 (64bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 560
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 9 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
  • OS: Mac OS 10.13 (64bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 470
  • Storage: 9 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
  • OS: Mac OS 10.13 (64bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 570
  • Storage: 9 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
  • OS: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (64bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E5200
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce 9800GTX+ (1GB)
  • Storage: 9 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
  • OS: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (64bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 560
  • Storage: 9 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended

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2 Comments

  1. bionoid June 7, 2022
    Reply

    Hail Almighty Zote !

    • Singingshroom June 9, 2022
      Reply

      I got all excited when I saw this review pop up on the site thinking it’s an early review of Silksong. It’s cruel to give someone hope like that.

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