It’s described as a metroidvania souls-like, and already it’s been compared to three different games before having a chance to speak for itself. Lets take those separately, then:
Hollow Knight is an exploration platformer (that’s the ‘vania) in a sprawling world that gradually opens as you gain new abilities (that’s the metroid), which absolutely refuses to pull its punches and deliberately excludes some modern home comforts like automatically-populating maps (there’s the Souls).
Of the comparisons, I’d say calling it a souls-like is the most unfair; where the Souls games delight in giving the player as miserable a time as possible, Hollow Knight is never cruel; the aforementioned maps can be bought with relative ease and the upgrade to have them automatically populate is earned early into the game (entirely skippable if that’s your speed), and the combat is entirely unrestricted by stats or gauges. Indeed, your success here is entirely based on your confidence and your skill level, and while Hollow Knight expects a great deal of both from the player, success and failure are never out of your hands.
At least, that’s usually the case. Hollow Knight’s aesthetic is very dark and dingy, which is absolutely beautiful, but comes with problems. Visibility suffers as a result, especially given the extravagant use of particle effects; many times I’ve struck an enemy to resounding applause of bright orange sparks, only to find once the smoke has cleared that the enemy was charging at me again and I’m about to take a hit with no recourse to avoid it. It’s highly frustrating, but I’m willing to own that one as likely user error- I typically fare poorly in dark games, having Binned a couple purely because I just couldn’t see a damned thing, while other players don’t seem to have that problem. Regardless, it’s one I’m willing to push through.
Fin or Bin:
It was perhaps a mistake to play Hollow Knight so immediately close to playing Metroid Dread, as the two games have enough in common that I’m confusing one with the other; no aeion dodge or double jump in Hollow Knight, alas (at least within its first hour). Also, I’m not at all jazzed about one particular Souls holdover- dying means losing all your currency and having to go get it back, essentially forcing you to retread the same path even if you want to explore somewhere else. I hate it when games punish failure in persistent ways- the main reason I don’t like roguelikes (except Hades).
Nonetheless! Hollow Knight is just too damn good. The controls are so, so sharp and the exploration so, so smooth. It might take me some time to get to it, but I’m not Finished with Hollow Knight yet.
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