Review: Hollow Knight (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Review: Hollow Knight (Switch)

by Jon Cousins 

A bugs life (and death)

Mention the term ‘Metroidvania’ to any gamer and the chances are they have a pretty good knowledge, if not a favourite from the genre. With the genesis of the term rooted in the early days of mixing platforming, exploration and gaining new abilities, the genre has now established its conventions while generating fresh interpretations periodically over the last few years.

The Nintendo Switch is home to a number of the best titles in the genre, from the dusty and rusty Steamworld Dig series to Sci-Fi spectacular Axiom Verge, and now it’s time for Aussie developer Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight to make its long-awaited console debut.

You take the role of the titular insect hero, who starts out with just a small nail to defend himself. By felling the wide range of beasties you meet on your travels, you’ll fill a gauge which can refill your health or be used to perform special abilities later on, such as projectiles and flight. By taking down brutal bosses and talking to a variety of kooky and forlorn characters you’ll meet along the way, you’ll explore and gradually unlock a dark, dangerous and sprawling underground landscape, which becomes increasingly treacherous yet easy to navigate with the help of your stag beetle steed.

Areas that are tantalisingly out of reach or absurdly powerful enemies will have to be revisited. There’s also a current in the game called geo, which can be spent on icons for your map, upgrades or various trinkets. Be warned, though, as if you have a decent stash and perish, you’ll have to go up against a ghost of yourself to earn it all back.

Make no mistake about it, the presentation of Hollow Knight is stellar from top to bottom. Animations are smooth and controls are tight. While there are spikes in difficulty (and the odd cheaply placed enemy), it’s normally a case of learning quick attack patterns and honing reflexes rather than an attritional battle.

Rain drops, bugs whimper, and elders grunt together with a superbly subtle orchestral score that gives the world of Hallownest a tangibly ominous atmosphere. From the purples and greys of the gothic architecture to blues and greens of rustling leaves in Greenpath, the hand-drawn art style is simply stunning and every inch of this huge world is rich in detail, with a depth of field and a colour palette that is as varied as it is absorbing. Without spoiling anything, the first time you notice an adorable little animation of the hero himself, the sooner your heart will be melted by his bravery and isolation.

While Hollow Knight does little to mix up the platformer or Metroidvania formula, it’s an aesthetic masterpiece and a masterclass in building a gloriously detailed world, filled with interesting characters and satisfying exploration/ action. It’s a must-own for fans of the genre, it’s more refined and polished than it has any right to be given its price point, and if Tim Burton ever made a video game, chances are it wouldn’t be stylistically as good as this. 

Final Score: 9.0

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