It’s been a while since I last posted a video game recommendation, and since I finally finished playing this game after several replays (for the achievements 😆), here’s an entire post dedicated to it! 🎮
To start off, here are some quick details of the game:
- Genre: 2D Action Platformer, Metroidvania
- Release Year: 2017
- Platforms Available: Windows PC, MacOS, Linux (Nintendo Switch version not available yet as of this post)
- ESRB Rating: Rating pending as of this post (I’d say at least 10+ or 13+ with fantasy violence)
- Common Sense Media Rating: Age 10+
What I Think
First, here’s a trailer for you!
Yep, that was what got me to buy the game. 😆
I was first drawn to the game because of the cute protagonist! My nephew called them a walking marshmallow. 😆
I thought this would be a partly light-hearted game considering the cute characters, but I was immediately proven wrong. The first few areas have were dark and mostly grey – a big shock to me as I’d just finished playing a game with colourful graphics!
Once I got over my shock, though, I started to appreciate the beautiful hand-drawn graphics. Even though many places were dark and melancholy, they were all differently atmospheric. The starting cave was dark yet quiet, as though no one had passed through in ages. The village was dark yet empty, filled with a sense of hopelessness. And eventually I found out there were places that weren’t grey, when I stumbled upon a beautiful lush green forest that evokes a peaceful feeling (despite all the ferocious bugs and acidic waters). Eventually I learned more of the lore, and realised the graphics really suit the story that was as dark and melancholy. 🙂
Also, eventually I found out how cute-looking creatures could turn really creepy in an instant. 😅
Brave the Depths of a Forgotten Kingdom
Beneath the fading town of Dirtmouth sleeps an ancient, forgotten kingdom. Now something awakes within the ruins, a powerful force that turns bugs mad and robs travellers of their senses. Many are drawn beneath the surface searching for riches, or glory, or answers to old secrets.
What is the source of this new plague? What calamity befell this once great kingdom? To solve these mysteries will require a journey into the deepest depths, but some secrets may be better left buried…
~From Hollow Knight Wikia
In this bug-themed and seemingly post-apocalyptic world, this game seems to have a simple story at first glance – an adventurer arriving at a fading village atop the ruins of a great kingdom (a perfect place for exploration!). Unlike most games where the story is given at regular progress intervals, most of the lore in this game is given in bits of pieces through talking to NPCs (non-playable characters), and one has to pierce together a backstory with these details. Certainly it’s a motivation to explore!
It took me a while to get the whole story, but once I did, the endings were all the more meaningful for me, all the more emotional. 😢
The score for Hollow Knight captures the vast underground world of the game. The story begins with soft piano notes echoing the Hollow Knight theme, and as the player explores further, orchestral forces swell to an operatic scale as the fate of the knight unfolds.
~From Band Camp: Hollow Knight (Original Soundtrack)
The moment we start up the game, the piano that plays at the title screen already sets the mood – quiet and melancholy, like the dark and grey graphics. In my humble opinion, the soundtracks beautifully capture the atmosphere of each area – peaceful areas with a gentle piano, heart-pumping battles achieved with not much percussion (just the way I like it!), the melancholy piano theme, the dramatic and emotional orchestra final battle theme. I love some of them so much that I’m learning them on the piano. 🎹
The main reason why I love this game is because of the fluid controls! I love how the protagonist reacts well to my controllers, even little things like long button press = high jump, short button press = low jump. 😀
Like all Metroidvania games, there is a heavy focus on exploration of the world, where certain areas are locked until we come back later with the right skill or item to open it up. And with a name like “Hollow Knight”, there’s also an equally heavy focus on combat – there is a strong emphasis on learning the enemy pattern, learning how to dodge and strike at the opportune moment, and of course practice makes perfect!
Also, I thought this would be a pretty short game, but to my surprise, it was a really long one! With all my wandering around (because I kept getting lost), backtracking to get previously inaccessible items (because I couldn’t bear to leave them behind) and taking my own sweet time to get 100% completion (just because), I took a whole 49 hours to finish this game the first time. 😆
If you ask Uncle Google, you’d find a lot of people saying this is a difficult game! Some, though, say it isn’t, but why?
I’d say this game can be difficult. It can also be really difficult. It really requires one to get used to the controls and be good enough at it to, say, jump across a series of super narrow platforms without falling. It requires one to learn enemy patterns quickly and when to dodge / strike / recover without getting hit. Unless you have a great perception for these kinds of things, your character will lose their life many times before you finally get the hang of it, and this is where “practice makes perfect” really kicks in.
That’s the challenging part – how many times do you need to try before you finally win? Because of the frustration of retrying, a lot of people call this game really difficult. 😶
For me, I’d say this game was more difficult than average. I consider myself a slightly above average gamer, having grown up playing games (especially with a controller). Yet, there were two bosses (significant enemies) in Hollow Knight that took me 20 tries and 2 hours each (that’s 40 tries and 4 hours total) just to beat them, until I finally learned their patterns and how to react. When I replayed the game later, the same two bosses took one try and 10 minutes each. So yeah. 😅
But man, the taste of victory after retrying so many times! It’s a great feeling when I could yell, “YES! I FINALLY WIN!!” 😆
That said, I really wouldn’t recommend this game for smaller kids or those new to action games. For the latter, I suggest picking up other action games like Ori and the Blind Forest (which is also difficult in a similar way but less so compared to Hollow Knight) and come back later when you’re more used to the controller. 🙂
Unlike a recent game that I fell hard in love at first sight, Hollow Knight was a slow, gradual love that kept me hooked the moment it captured me! With fluid movements, lots of content and a challenging enough battle, this is a game I replayed many times for its unlockable achievements before I finally move on to the next game. 😀
The only thing I’d wish for is a map marker for walls / floors / ceilings that require abilities we don’t have yet (for example, a dive spell for a breakable, unstable floor), or at least the ability to add custom map markers. Because I suck at remember what is where after I leave an area. 😅
Here are the answers to questions you might have before buying like I did!
PC Version Only?
As of this post, only the PC version is available (Windows OS, Mac OS or Linux); Nintendo Switch version is not yet available. I don’t have a Nintendo Switch anyway, so it was a no-brainer for me. 😅
Controller or Keyboard?
When you load up the game, even before you get to the title screen, the game already tells you, “The use of a controller is highly recommended.” This is the first time I encountered a game with such message!
Personally I feel action games that don’t require aiming a gun of some sort is way easier to play with the controller rather than the keyboard, so I play with a PlayStation 4 controller connected via Bluetooth to my laptop that is plugged in to my TV. Yep, I’m a couch potato gamer. 😆
Is It Expensive?
I’d say for the amount of content, it’s not expensive; I bought it for less than USD $10 during Steam summer sale! You could wait for Steam autumn sale in a month and a half and decide then. 😀
Where to Buy the Game?
Check out Hollow Knight’s official website for a list! (It’s near the top after the trailer video.)
Should I Buy the Soundtrack?
I’d say buying the soundtrack is a matter of personal preference, though I wish I bought it together with the game! (It’s cheaper as a bundle.) It’s up to you whether to buy it or not; if you’re undecided, you could sample it on YouTube. Now I’m waiting for a sale before I get it. 😀
Hollow Knight: Hidden Dreams?
You might have seen the term “Hidden Dreams” a lot by now! Hidden Dreams is the free DLC (downloadable content) that was released early August 2017, which added some new features and additional bosses into the base game. 😀
I actually started playing the game after the DLC release, so I didn’t notice I was actually using the new features without realising they were new. 😆
I think that’s all the questions I can think of! Do let me know if you have more questions about this game. 😀
What do you think of the game? Have you played the game? Do let me know in the comments below!
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter
It’s wonderful how you kept retrying and never let frustration get a hold of you no matter how many times you lost in that game! It shows how much stronger you are now. ❤