My challenge for completing a game in January 2021, was this lovely little title that completely caught me by surprise. It wasn't a game that I had planned on giving much time, but before I knew it, I was 20 hours in and completely absorbed in the experience. Read on to hear my thoughts on Hollow Knight-Voidheart Edition.
Hollow Knight Review
I possessed zero prior knowledge of this endearing, minuscule hero’s adventure ahead of downloading the complimentary PlayStation Plus handout. I hadn’t previously discovered, nor even heard of it. The lone reason I decided to gift it the opportunity to grace my screen, was because my 5 year old son was particularly fascinated by the artwork. He proceeded to request that I play it, and that he only be able to spectate. Not in that exact language though. I conceived that it might potentially keep him entertained. Meanwhile, I could poach some ever-so-precious gaming time.
I was instantaneously struck and reeled in by the adorable and charming graphics. It has a dark but chirpy vibe. Simple, but consisting of exquisite depth.
Hollow knight is by no means a walk in the park kind of game, but it possesses a sublimely rewarding difficulty curve. You establish yourself with limited skills, a nail that’s as honed as a butter knife and as much idea of what is going on as Inspector Gadget.
This lack of ability has you feeling remarkably unremarkable, but the atmosphere and mix of mysterious, sinister characters create a vacuum that feeds on your intrigue, and compels you to delve deeper.
You take on the role of a small, nail-wielding Knight, who has found Hallownest. A kingdom inhabited by a plethora of bugs, critters and creatures. Several friendly NPC’s aid you on your adventure and reveal the lore of the land. While the majority will endeavour to dismember or vanquish you.
You begin in a surface town called Dirtmouth, a town of squalor and dilapidation. It was apparently once a thriving, bug-filled community but a curse has befallen and things aren’t as they once were. It’s practically a ghost town and you charge yourself with the job of clearing the depths below the town of whatever curse is exacerbating the problem.
Below Dirtmouth are caverns brimming with some exquisite locales, a variety of flora and fauna, and an abundance of vendors, allies and adversaries.
Each foe has you on your toes, studying them and discovering the optimum technique to conquer them. It’s so satisfying when you can manage to jump, slash and pound your way through enemies unscathed. Your reactions constantly tested and trained into the art of hollow knight combat.
If you grew up in the 90’s you will feel at home with the control system initially, and may even experience an air of nostalgia with how your intrepid and pluck character moves around the world.
The simplicity of the controls with the immature beginnings of your hero, palliates the game for beginners, while offering ideas of greater depth, by revealing inaccessible platforms and areas, during your preliminary escapades into the depths of Hallownest.
The character movement and actions are satisfyingly smooth and responsive. Timing jumps and nail strikes are so gratifying. Being in control of this miniature assassin is nothing short incredible and grants you with delusions of grandeur. The platforming and combat challenges keep you on your toes and are as challenging as you will find. Each new technique adds layers to these challenges and keeps it fresh throughout. I shan’t lie. There may be times when you want to kick this game where it hurts. Times when you feel like Tim Henman did whenever he visited Wimbledon, but if you persevere, you will reap the rewards, mentally and with spoils.
Hallownest, offers you many a side quest along the way. From rescuing grubs from glass jars and sending them back to the ever-grateful grubfather, to searching out secret areas and being rewarded with new charms or abilities.
There are NPC’s that need help and can result in re-populating dirtmouth or even being aided in battle against bosses, which can be extremely helpful. So never dismiss any of these. Most things are there for a reason in this game. Hints can hide in dialogue so pay attention.
As your adventure unfolds before you, the acquisition of new abilities aids and enhances the enjoyment of Hollow Knight. It opens new challenges and with the mastery (or experience) of each skill, you feel progressively, excessively badass.
The delightful artwork is endearing. It’s full of life and character, and manages to set the various tones in the different areas of Hallownest. From the dismal, eerie depths of deepnest, to the vibrant, zestful, colourful fungal wastes. Each zone, without exception, sets a unique mood and evokes a variety of emotions. Dirtmouth, with its tranquil and calming atmosphere, feels like home. Especially after the stressful, frightful ordeal of venturing through the darkness of an area like deepnest.
The characters are a unique mixture, from cute to harrowing. There is an impressive volume of distinctly individual baddies for you to slice up with your nail, or to pulverize with the hugely impressive array of powers that you collect throughout the adventure. Each animated be sublimely. I find myself using various abilities, just to be able to bask in the delightful animation.
The music and sound effects are also pretty darn amazing and harmonize with the surroundings, aiding the sinister ambience of the game. The scores during boss battles are fantastic and magnify your adrenalin pumping state.
One of my most adored parts of the game is when you hit an enemy with your nail. A blocked effort will result in a clink of steel, while a clean hit will produce an uber satisfying sound, like something you might hear on Game of Thrones, when limbs are being removed.
Hollow knight is an amazing little adventure that will give you hours of pleasure, and no doubt a similar number of hours, consisting of torture, pain and anger. There are many comparisons to dark souls, but this is shining, ingenious game, with merits of its own. It takes the premise and makes a unique bundle of joy. You must give it some time initially, and if you have reactions as terrible as mine, you will need ample patience to survive many of the encounters, but I guarantee that this gratifying masterpiece is well worth it.
I am not often a person that instigates a second playthrough straight after completing a campaign, but this game forced me into it. It is so gripping and addictive. It is one of those “five more minutes” kind of games. Once the claws are in you, it will be incredibly difficult to shake it off.
For those of you that like a challenge, there are so many optional bosses and areas to visit that you will be spoilt for choice. And the ever-increasing difficulty of these voluntary escapades will have you screaming at the TV for hours.
I have been trying to find fault with this game during the writing of this review, but honestly, nothing came to hand. The learning curve is tricky, but attainable. The story is intriguing and enticing, and the subtlety story telling resonates perfectly with the environment and its ambience. Hollow knight can be a pick-up-and-play game, or you can delve yourself deep into the lore and mood of it all to create a memorable experience. It is your choice. Either way though, the game is perfect, and I am glad my 5-year-old son pressured me into playing it.
Hollow Knight gets a Bad Gamer score of 10/10.
2D can still play with the big boys and come out on top. Buy this game and play it.
I myself will continue with my second playthrough, as I do not have the skills to overcome some of the optional bosses, to head for the platinum. I look forward to Silksong, the next instalment from Team Cherry.