The Insight: Hollow Knight Is Rife With One Of The Best Indie Game Experiences You Can Find Right Now

By Ronald Gordon

It’s what I like. Of all the games I’ve played throughout the years, I repeatedly find myself drawn toward the genre known as adventure games. Something about stepping into a new world and exploring what it holds really draws my attention to the point where if an adventure game is good enough, I’ll keep playing until I finish it. Hollow Knight is one adventure game I am gladly adding to the list of games I aim to complete.

Hollow Knight is a 2D Metroidvania style Indie Adventure game developed and published by Team Cherry. In the game, you play as the nameless knight who braves the dungeons of Hollowcrest with your nail as your weapon, your soul as your health, and your wits as your closest friend. With every dive into the dungeon, you unlock more secrets and encounter new enemies and bosses to fight. However, with every dive you uncover more and more information about Hollowcrest before its citizens went mad with greed and became the corrupted Husks you must defeat.

Hollow Knight has a variety of different envirinments for you to explore, from the Forgotten Crossroads, an underground civilization full of long dead citizens who are now mindless Husks, to the Fungal Wastes, a massive tunnel system littered with sentient fungi that spout poison and other deadly substances. With each level there is also an array of enemies to kill that get tougher and tougher as the levels progress. Some are big, some are small. But none of them should be underestimated as they’re all capable of killing you if you’re not careful.

One of my least favorite encounters was with long jellyfish-like creatures called Ooma. Ooma aren’t exactly hard to kill as they’re mainly stationary and only move upwards when they float too low. However, it’s not the killing you should worry about, it’s what happens afterwards when the creatures are dead. You see, the Ooma have very explosive cores that are contained within the center of their heads. When an Ooma dies, this core flies freely and chases you down before exploding as it collides with either you or an object near you.

Hollow Knight has a unique art style — everything in the game is hand-drawn by the developers themselves. Upon learning this, I immediately began appreciating the game more, because it’s amazing that the plethora of details displayed within the game could be hand-drawn. The art style is flawless and cartoon-like, making the game feel special as every detail has been handcrafted. The movements of the characters are smooth and fluid and the backgrounds of the levels are eye-catching and breathtaking. There are also fine points that draw the attention such as the many spatterings of spores hanging in the air of the Fungal Wastes or the glowing fireflies you can see in the Greenpath level – that is, if you can see past all of the overgrown plants and leaves that take over every platform or piece of ground as soon as you set your foot down. Each of the levels features different dramatic music that matches that level’s emotional tone.  For instance, the Greenpath level’s theme is more lively because that level itself is colorful and alive. And in Dirtmouth, a hub level where you can buy items for your journey, the music is low and gloomy, since the town is empty except for the lucky survivors of the dungeon, and those you saved from corruption in your ventures.

In Hollow Knight, the combat and the movement are fairly simple. Your only tools for defense, besides your wits, are your basic attacks and your spells. While your basic attacks won’t cost you anything, your spells require a limitless energy source called Soul. You can gain Soul energy by striking enemies or finding special statues hidden within levels. Once you have some Soul, you can either use it to heal yourself if you’re injured, or to unleash a violent spell called Vengeful Spirit, which launches a blast of Soul energy that deals a lot of damage. You also have the option to dash, which can greatly help you evade attacks, put some distance between you and your enemy, and traverse platforms in levels you wouldn’t be able to jump to. However, when it comes to platforming sections, your timing has to be nearly perfect, since without the Mantis Claw ability, you won’t be able to catch yourself on a wall and jump to safety. If that’s the case, then you better hope you’ve got some Soul left over to heal yourself, or you might be a goner.

Hollow Knight is a game I enjoyed playing all too much and it excites me to no end to know that I’m only halfway done. The soundtrack for the game isn’t something to ignore either – even while writing this review, I’ve been listening to the OST of the Soul Sanctum level, which is a very well orchestrated mix of Gothic organ music and melodic chorus chanting, reminding me that the place I’m exploring used to be inhabited by great and powerful wizards and spell casters. I’d strongly suggest this game to anyone who wants a quality adventure game that has enjoyable music, stunning art, and lore that’s pleasurable to learn about and explore.

Ronald Gordon is creating the City Tech College chapter of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.

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