The crowdfunded Metrovania Hollow Knight from developer Team Cherry made headway last year when it launched on PC, and then again when it was released for the Nintendo Switch this past June (and now on PS4 and Xbox One). A lot’s been said on how marvelous this title is, but in my mind there’s two reasons why Hollow Knight deserves your attention, especially on the Switch.
BUT FIRST, here’s a synopsis:
The Hollownest was once a thriving kingdom home to many insect creatures, but now it has become desolate and decayed. The player takes the role of the Knight, an adorable little warrior armed with a nail and magical abilities called SOUL, ready to explore the mysteries of the Hollownest and unearth its most primal secrets.
Respecting the Player’s Intelligence
Hollow Knight is incredibly difficult. Surviving the Hollownest takes sheer willpower, determination, and whole lot of patience. This is because the game strips away many of the conveniences of modern gaming. When you enter a new area, you don’t automatically have a map. You need to navigate the area, find the mapmaker, then buy the map from him. If you die before that happens, you lose your money and respawn at the last checkpoint bench you rested at. To get your money back, you need to navigate to where you died and then defeat a phantom version of yourself. And even we you get the map, you better have bought the compass so that you can see exactly where on the map you are.
If you played Metroidvania games before, like the recent Metroid: Samus Returns or the jolly Yoku’s Island Express, that all probably sounds frustrating; and it is. Making your way through a new area only to get killed by a pack of swarming enemies sucks big time. It can take a lot of time just to get back to where you were, not to mention trying to successfully retrieve your lost cash.
There were a number of times when I wanted to quit, but I never did because Hollow Knight respects your skills and intelligence. It isn’t unfair, the game is just pushing you to swing your nail more efficiently, strategically use your SOUL to regain health, and pay attention to each environment you’re exploring. For example, when you enter a new area and are looking for the mapmaker, you may see pieces of paper scattered along the floor, indicating he is near by. If you follow that paper trail and hear a friendly tune being hummed, you know you’ve almost found him.
Hollow Knight is full of little details like this, you just need to keep an eye out for them. In fact, the story also isn’t very explicit in what is truly happening. Often the environments and visuals will clue you into the true nature of the Hollownest much more than the few cutscenes will.
If you just dive into the game without thinking, you’re going to have a bad time. Patient, critical thinking, and willpower are what is needed to survive Hollow Knight, and if you use these traits, you’ll uncover an extremely rewarding experience.
The Power of the Sleeping Switch
Much like Lumines Remastered, Hollow Knight is a game that absolutely benefits from being on a handheld device. This is largely because of that magic little feature called sleep mode.
I know this seems obvious to point out, but it really does benefit the player here. Being able to pause your game while keeping it running, or when you are on the go, provides a sense of continuity and convenience that can make Hollow Knight a little less daunting. You can keep exploring without worrying about having to find a checkpoint right away, and it can make preparing for a boss fight that much easier.
Again, I know this seems like a minor point, but for those wanting to drudge through the Hollownest and are anxious about doing so, please consider the Switch version of Hollow Knight.
I really didn’t focus on the artistic merit of Hollow Knight in this article (the game is beautiful, I love the City of Tears music), because I wanted to focus on how challenging it is. Hollow Knight was extremely daunting to me, but through sticking it out and learning as I played, it really showed me the most challenging of games can be completed if you put in the time and really want to get better. For that reason, I owe Hollow Knight a lot.
- Anyone looking for a extremely challenging and extremely rewarding Metroidvania
- Those who love exploration and creepy, decrepit atmosphere
IT’S NOT FOR:
- If you’re looking for a light and breezy experience (my playthrough was 23 hours)
- Those who hate squashing bugs
Hollow Knight is available for Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Review copy provided by Team Cherry