Hitbox Hell’s “Game of the Year” in 2017
Firstly, I should preface this review by saying it’s not very normal for me to like a game that isn’t in my comfort zone in terms of genre or difficulty. In fact, I touched Super Metroid once many years ago and never went back to it. My opinion had been decided – metroidvania games were too hard for me and weren’t worth my time. Of course, I knew that difficult games in a similar vein such as Battletoads, Castlevania and Dark Souls existed but I knew that if I brute forced myself to try and complete games notorious for being difficult, I would just slowly seep into this hole of spite, anger and depression and so I left those types of games off my radar for a very long time.
Hollow Knight was a game that I had passing interest in since at least 2017. It was a very lovely looking game and I never had any true intentions to try it out – but I had the opportunity to and I gave it a shot – ultimately giving up quite early on in the game and for the most part never touching it again but I was still happy to support the game and it’s community for two years until it left my memory when I pursued over interests in games.
However, in 2020, I decided to finally revisit the game and play through it properly and I can positively say that I regret not playing this game sooner as it has completely blown me away beyond belief. There are so many things that put when combined like they have in Hollow Knight that make the game and incredible experience from top to bottom. Sadly, my controller broke halfway through playing the game and I had to spent an additional run of the game (not too long) to get a feel for using my keyboard to play instead and, in some mysterious way, I think that the shift from controller to keyboard enhanced my experience of the game and made it more enjoyable as adapting to your surroundings plays a huge part in the gameplay itself.
Team Cherry have created an engaging and atmospheric background to their game, with every character, object and area serving a purpose. As you explore the world of Hallownest, you’ll encounter different people and learn how their own story and experience fits in within the wider context of the game. A good example of this is Cornifer, a cartographer who the player will meet in almost every game. His role within the game is simple: To sell you maps so that you can navigate your way easier. One of the great things about Hollow Knight is that meeting characters feels natural and never like it’s forced upon you in order to progress through the story – it’s a novelty that a metroidvania is fleshed out as much as Hollow Knight is, giving us an extensive look into the lives of the different species of creatures that make Hallownest the place that it is.
Every area has a different story to tell and significance to the story, which may or may not be uncovered by the player on their journey as some areas are entirely optional and can be missed on a first playthrough.
As you progress through the different areas the game has to offer, you’re rewarded with more mobility and movement, such as being able to dash and climb up walls. These mechanics become absolutely essential in boss fights in later parts of the game as they progressively get harder and harder and they not only serve as an extra way to fight a boss, but the maneuverability that they provide allows you to access areas that you may have missed in the beginning of the game which provide you with more currency to use in the shops spread around the map or to use to purchase charms.
Charms are a unique resource in Hollow Knight, allowing the player to gain advantages such as extra health of further attacks. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll need charms to survive late game content as they provide significant boosts that enable the player to survive for longer in fights. Charms and health are very integrated into the exploration of the game world, as you’re tasked with finding bits and pieces of mask shards and charm notches to be able to hold more of both – though some of these are unlocked by defeating specific bosses.
The great thing about Hollow Knight is that there is a clear learning curve that must be conquered in able to be good at the game. It’s not too difficult aside from one or two bosses but while fighting against these bosses in particular, it made me realise that this learning curve has taught me to adapt and memorise patterns so that I don’t fail again. Some of these patterns can be very quick and fast reactions are definitely required to be able to nail some of the more tougher foes that you’ll encounter but before long, you’ll have beaten them – the relief of which is very cathartic.
I won’t go into too much detail, as to not spoil the game’s plot or story – but once you defeat specific bosses around the map, you’ll have the ability to fight them again – but this time, they’ll be much more difficult to handle. Personally, I love this feature of the game and it shows the love and care put into Team Cherry to make Hollow Knight a unique, engrossing and enjoyable experience and well-deserved recognition as one of the best indie games to be released and one of the best metroidvanias in the genre.
Hollow Knight is a fantastic game that faithfully brings back what made classic metroidvania games so enjoyable while also expanding on the concept and introducing new, innovative ideas and mechanics that push the boundary of what can be done within the genre while also finding the room to tell a story that is integrated into the game to create an atmospheric, challenging and awe-striking game.