Dark Souls has staked a truly impressive claim on the niche subculture of video games since its release in 2012. Games with a high difficulty and some sort of tangible punishment for failure beyond wasted time gets labelled a clone of it.
Some games roll with that comparison for good, like Salt and Sanctuary and for ill, like Lords of The Fallen. Meanwhile, other games bear only a passing resemblance to FromSoftware’s modern classic, like the topic of today’s discussion, Hollow Knight. This game is more like Castlevania by way of Shovel Knight, with Dark Souls’ dismal atmosphere and cryptic world-building.
You play as the mysterious Knight, a mute insect warrior who has come to the ruins of Hallownest in order to accomplish an equally mysterious goal. While there, the Knight is tasked with exploring the labyrinth of tunnels, damaged structures and bug corpses in order to collect upgrades to their movement and combat abilities. Like in Dark Souls, you can find an array of cryptic NPCs and shopkeepers to probe for information and helpful items, as you piece together how the world got the way it is.
This all happens amongst long stretches of exploration, an extremely sedate affair punctuated by small bursts of combat and precision platforming, before you stumble upon one of the game’s bombastic boss fights. It’s here where the game’s combat and movement truly shine for what it is. As in Shovel Knight, the player is made to move and attack extremely methodically compared to the bosses, so figuring out how and when to strike is going to get you farther than just whaling on the enemy blindly. For bonus Shovel Knight points, your downward attack lets you bounce off enemies.
As far as the all-important death mechanics are concerned, Hollow Knight has you covered. When you die, you drop all your money and lose half your magic bar until you can come back and defeat the shade of your past life near where you died. While losing your magic bar is genuinely crippling, as that’s what you use to restore your life gauge, the money lost is less useful than the Souls or Blood Echoes of a FromSoftware game, given that your primary increases in power comes from finding the relevant items in the world, and not from a leveling system.
The thing that elevates Hollow Knight beyond mere comparisons to other games, however, is the polish lavished on every aspect of the package. The controls are extremely precise; the hand-drawn backgrounds and sprites are some of the best 2D work I’ve seen in a while; the music is just phenomenal; and the boss fights take advantage of all that to truly wow the player as they’re being stomped into the dirt.
And at only $15, Hollow Knight is worth every penny.
Logan Graham is a senior studying media arts with a focus in games and animation at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Logan know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.