Hollow Knight by Team Cherry is a game that’s all about what’s under the surface. Featuring a beautiful hand drawn aesthetic, this is a title that keeps on giving the more you play.
Hollow Knight definitely draws comparisons to the Souls series in its story. You arrive at a long abandoned town as a mysterious bug. You’ve been drawn to the ruins where treasure, danger and more await you.
Gameplay is of the metroidvania affair; with upgrades and new abilities waiting for you. The game’s hand drawn aesthetic may not look overly detailed, but it provides a very clean look to the game’s distinctive characters.
Hollow Knight’s challenge is all about conserving souls. As you deal damage to enemies, you’ll absorb souls that are stored in the upper-left. Souls are used to power your offensive spells and to heal; which is the only way to recover health. Your healing spell requires you to remain motionless for a few seconds; leading to some breath-holding moments during boss fights.
The game’s currency — Geo, are earned from killing enemies and finding geo pockets. The majority of upgrades and quality of life features are tied to spending geo. Shortcuts, fast travel, even unlocking markers for your map will require you to spend geo.
The world design of Hollow Knight is fantastic, and comes close to matching what we saw in terms of connective-ness in Dark Souls. This is a game where one corridor could take you on a crazy quest completely off the beaten path.
Don’t let the aesthetics fool you, Hollow Knight is not a happy go lucky world; there is a lot of bite to this game.
Hollow Knight on the surface looks like a simple 2D game, but there are a lot of challenging fights and advanced systems at play.
Similar to the Souls series, death come with a punishment. You’ll drop your current stash of geos and you’ll lose a portion of your soul vessel until you return to your death spot and reclaim it. Charms provide a variety of passive bonuses that you can equip at rest areas. The amount of charms you can have on at one time is dependent on finding notch upgrades in the world.
The more you play the game, the world and your options will grow. Hollow Knight is a great example of metroidvania design thanks to its progression system. As you unlock new abilities, your movement options will impact how you move through the levels. There are a lot of secrets and collectibles to find; many requiring you to backtrack.
For those wanting more, there is a hardcore mode available after beating the game and many optional boss fights.
All in all Hollow Knight is an amazing game, and I only have a few nitpicks to discuss.
The Long Way Around:
I think I found Hollow Knight’s beginning and middle to be better than the end. There is a lot of backtracking to find upgrades and remaining challenges. While you do open up some fast travel options, a lot of the areas that you’ll need to return to will be on foot. This can make it extra frustrating when you’re trying to remember what areas to go to and having to spend time repeating content.
In terms of quality of life features, I wasn’t a fan of having the ability to see your position on the map as a charm upgrade. The world is big and confusing enough without making the player have to use up one of their charm slots to know where they are in it.
There will come a point when you won’t need geo anymore; making the non-boss content simply busywork. It got to the point that I stopped caring about completion and just wanted to see the end of the game.
Hollow Knight is an amazing game from top to bottom. Fans of metroidvania-styled gameplay will find a lot to love here. While the ending does seem to indicate that this is a singular adventure, I would love to see a return to this world or whatever comes next from Team Cherry.
To see the game in action, you can find my completed playlist of Hollow Knight on the YouTube channel.