A haunting and masterful metroidvania experience with tones of Dark Souls

User Rating: 10 | Hollow Knight PC

Hollow Knight, a charming 2D action-platformer with delightful hand-drawn visuals, is a triumph in its genre. Much like Terraria was a surprising and pleasing interpretation of what Minecraft's basic principles could be turned into in the 2D space, Hollow Knight is, in many ways, what Dark Souls set out to do so well, but translated deftly into a 2D space with its own masterful spins and unique identity. From rich and illusive lore that slowly reveals itself through the environment and interactions with NPCs, to challenging and tightly-controlled combat and platforming, to the elation of discovery and surprise, Hollow Knight embodies and builds on what made Dark Souls so indescribable yet utterly compelling.

The world of Hollow Knight is a desolate one, though with hidden beauty and otherworldly majesty. It takes place in the stunningly realized Hallownest, a hand-drawn world once home to a bustling insect population, now reduced to ruin and memory. You play as an insect of tiny proportion wielding a Nail, a sword-like tool for keeping one safe in the depths of the forgotten kingdom below. Your goal is not apparent yet, but you plunge into the world below, fighting off deranged insects who were once citizens of this forsaken place and other such perils to uncover what happened to the once-proud kingdom. The world is completely hand-drawn, and has an emotive, undeniable charm. Friendly NPCs offer pieces of story and items for sale, while they talk and grunt in their memorable and crazy made-up insect language.

The environment and characters of Hallownest all show loving craftsmanship and subtly clue the player into the themes and state of the world. Caves show their wear and age with beautiful attention to detail and lore, and open up into countless other ecosystems as you plot your way through the massive map. Much of this world is accompanied by a stirring soundtrack as well, with haunting timbre and melodias piano pieces setting the tone for the mysterious and sad Hallownest. Clear care was put into making each area feel unique not just visually, but musically as well, and you'll find yourself pausing the action to take in the sensory artistry.

Discovery is one of the greatest joys in the game, and constantly delights the player with hidden passages, discoverable shortcuts, and a breadth of charms and skills to upgrade the player's combat and platforming abilities with. You start off with your Nail and the simple ability to jump, but throughout the game, you'll learn magic derived from a Soul meter which fills as you attack enemies, allowing you to heal and use offensive magic, gain Charms which add special new traits to your character when equipped, and learn other abilities which aid in platforming, like a dash or wall-jump ability. Much of the game world is ingeniously blocked off if you lack the proper platforming ability to navigate it as well, and makes the joy of discovering a new traversal skill feel like gaining a key to a new world.

Hollow Knight is a magical game; effortlessly engrossing and inspirational in its imagination. It's easy to pick up and hard to put down, with a pluck of your heartstrings or tantalizing new joy to uncover with just a few more minutes of play time. The care put into making this game is evident, and your time with it more than worthy. Hollow Knight channels the greatness of 2D classics like Metroid and Castlevania, with their perfected controls and sense of progression, while blending the nebulous and primordial world-building and storytelling of Dark Souls. It's a testament to the talented developers behind this game that Hollow Knight not only draws inspiration from such classics, but builds on them in meaningful and impactful ways, maybe even surpassing them. Hollow Knight is a sight to behold, and in every sense of the word, a masterpiece.