Nintendo Switch – 2017
Hallow Knight is a side scrolling-action platformer were the player controls a tiny bug–warrior called “The Vessel (or Ghost)”. You explore a huge and dangerous insect-kingdom called Hallownest, fighting horrible monsters and learning amazing abilities that will help in your adventure. I would like to point out that the Nintendo Switch physical release also comes with a beautiful poster representing the map of Hallownest.
Hallow Knight adheres to high standards of video game design. The cartoonish graphics are dark, charming and creepy, while the soundtrack fits the nightmarish spirit of Hallownest perfectly. The plot is revealed gradually, however, for a very long time the player has really little information about The Vessel’s true intentions.
The gameplay of Hollow Knight is a blend of previous Metroidvania games. Its map system, emphasis on exploring, unlocking spells and abilities should feel familiar to those who enjoy the Metroid and Castlevania series. At the beginning, the playable character’s main weapon is an uncomfortable short blade which reminded me of Zelda 2 (that gives me the creeps!). However, the short range is mitigated by the flexibility to attack in any direction, similar to Super Castlevania IV. Like other Metroidvania games,it is possible to equip and combine abilities (called Charms). These are a lot of fun and some of them are acquired in the early part of the game. Unfortunately, the player can only equip a limited number of charms at any one time, so they have to think carefully about what ones they need. The result is that although Ghost acquires many Charms during the game, you may have to sacrifice some for a passive ability, e.g. the map indicator.
To improve your character, you will need to spend many hours exploring the world of Hollow Knight. The reason they can justify such slow character development is the fact that Hallownest is a huge world to explore, especially for a tiny bug like Ghost. As a result, Hollow Knight is definitely a game way longer than any classic Metroidvania. Luckily, there is enough fun and weirdness to see to keep the player glued to the sofa.
Hollow Knight does have some odd design aspects, for example the character cannot duck. He also bounces back (often falling in to deadly pits) when delivering a hit in a certain way, which reminds me of the old NES Castlevanias. Incredibly, this “bounce back” can be avoided by equipping specific Charm. This links back to the previous point I made about the Charm slots and their limited space. I feel that fun should be achieved with solid game design and not by disadvantaging the player through limited Charm slots.
Overall, Hollow Knight is a fun and solid game built on the decades of Metroidvania improvements. It really is a joy to get immersed in Hollownest and its weird creatures. However, it does have some annoying flaws, especially when compared to the likes of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night or the classic Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Not an absolute masterpiece but certainly a very nice addition to any players collection.