Hollow Knight Review: Unearthing the Pros and Cons of a Dark and Enchanting Adventure


“Hollow Knight” is a critically acclaimed indie action-adventure game developed by Team Cherry and released in 2017. Set in a beautifully hand-drawn and mysterious underground world, the game has captivated players with its engaging gameplay, intricate lore, and challenging boss fights. In this review, we will delve into the pros and cons of Hollow Knight, provide a detailed overview of how to play the game, and suggest five alternative titles for those who enjoy this genre. 

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Pros of Hollow Knight:

  • Immersive and Atmospheric World: One of the standout features of Hollow Knight is its meticulously crafted world, Hallownest. The hand-drawn art style and attention to detail create a dark, atmospheric, and captivating environment. The world feels alive with its diverse cast of creatures, inhabitants, and hidden secrets.
  • Challenging Gameplay: Hollow Knight offers challenging 2D platforming and combat, which can be both frustrating and rewarding. The game doesn’t hold your hand, and success in battles or platforming sections requires precision and skill. This difficulty level appeals to gamers who enjoy a demanding experience.
  • Exploration and Metroidvania Elements: The game encourages exploration with its interconnected world and Metroidvania-style gameplay. As you progress, you unlock new abilities that enable you to access previously unreachable areas. This sense of progression and discovery is deeply satisfying.
  • Engaging Storytelling: Hollow Knight’s narrative is conveyed indirectly, with minimal handholding. Players must piece together the story from environmental storytelling, character interactions, and lore scattered throughout the world. This approach allows for deep immersion and an enriched sense of discovery.
  • Boss Fights: The game features numerous challenging and memorable boss battles. Each boss has a unique set of attack patterns and strategies, keeping the encounters fresh and demanding players to adapt and improve their skills.
  • Beautiful Soundtrack: The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by composer Christopher Larkin complements the game’s atmosphere and narrative, immersing players in Hallownest’s world and its mysteries.
  • Extensive Content: Hollow Knight offers a vast amount of content, including hidden areas, optional challenges, and multiple endings. This ensures that players have a long and fulfilling journey through the game.
  • Regular Updates and Additional Content: Team Cherry has been diligent in providing free updates and additional content, enhancing the game’s longevity and keeping the player base engaged.
  • High Replay Value: The game’s multiple endings and optional challenges provide ample replay value. Players can choose to explore different paths and discover new secrets with each playthrough.

Cons of Hollow Knight:

  • High Difficulty: While challenging gameplay can be a pro for some, it may deter players who prefer a more relaxed gaming experience. The difficulty can lead to frustration and might not be suitable for everyone.
  • Vague Storytelling: The indirect storytelling can leave some players feeling lost or disconnected from the narrative. It can be challenging to understand the game’s lore without investing a significant amount of time and effort.
  • Backtracking: As is common in Metroidvania-style games, Hollow Knight requires a fair amount of backtracking. While this is part of the genre’s charm, it may not be appealing to players who prefer a more streamlined experience.
  • Limited Hand-Holding: The game offers minimal guidance, which can be frustrating for newcomers to the genre or players who prefer a more guided experience. Some players may find it difficult to progress without resorting to online guides or walkthroughs.
  • No Auto-Save Feature: Hollow Knight lacks an auto-save feature, which means players must manually save at benches scattered throughout the world. This can lead to losing progress in challenging areas if a player forgets to save.
  • Performance Issues on Certain Platforms: While the game generally runs smoothly, some players on certain platforms have reported occasional performance issues, including frame rate drops. This can be a drawback for those with lower-end hardware.

How to Play Hollow Knight:

Hollow Knight can be played on multiple platforms, including PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and more. The game is accessible for both beginners and experienced gamers. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to play Hollow Knight:

  • Selecting a Platform: First, choose your preferred platform to play Hollow Knight. Make sure your hardware meets the game’s system requirements for optimal performance.
  • Downloading or Installing the Game: Purchase and download Hollow Knight from your platform’s digital store or insert the physical game disc if you’re playing on a console.
  • Starting the Game: Launch Hollow Knight from your game library or desktop icon.
  • Creating a New Game: If you’re playing for the first time, start a new game by selecting “New Game” from the main menu.
  • Exploring Hallownest: As you begin, you’ll find yourself in the forsaken kingdom of Hallownest. Explore the dark and mysterious world, collect Geo (in-game currency), and uncover the story through interactions with NPCs and environmental storytelling.
  • Engaging in Combat: Combat is a significant part of the game. Use your nail (a sword-like weapon) to defeat enemies, and learn to dodge, jump, and time your attacks effectively. As you progress, you’ll gain new abilities and spells to aid you in battle.
  • Navigating the Map: To help you navigate Hallownest, obtain and equip a map and a quill from Cornifer, the cartographer. Use these items to fill in your map as you explore, making it easier to find your way around.
  • Saving Progress: Save your game at benches scattered throughout the world. Benches also serve as respawn points if you die, but be aware that you’ll lose your Geo if you don’t retrieve it before dying again.
  • Unlocking New Abilities: Throughout your journey, you’ll acquire new abilities that allow you to access previously unreachable areas. These abilities are crucial for progressing in the game.
  • Conquering Bosses: Hollow Knight features a variety of challenging boss battles. Each boss has unique attack patterns and weaknesses. Learn their moves, adapt your strategy, and overcome them to advance.
  • Discovering Secrets: The game is filled with secrets, hidden paths, and optional challenges. Keep an eye out for breakable walls, hidden passages, and other clues that lead to valuable rewards.
  • Exploring Optional Content: While the main story provides a substantial experience, there are optional challenges, quests, and multiple endings to pursue for extended gameplay.
  • Enjoying the Soundtrack: Immerse yourself in the game’s atmospheric world with the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack. The music adds depth to the experience.
  • Saving Often: Remember to save your progress at benches frequently, especially before attempting challenging areas or boss fights.

Five Alternatives to Hollow Knight:

If you’ve enjoyed Hollow Knight and are looking for similar games, here are five alternatives that offer engaging gameplay, atmospheric worlds, and challenging experiences:

  • Ori and the Blind Forest: This visually stunning platformer features a touching narrative, breathtaking art, and a Metroidvania-style world. Players control Ori, a guardian spirit, as they navigate a mystical forest and face challenging obstacles and enemies.
  • Dead Cells: Dead Cells combines elements of roguelike games with the Metroidvania genre. It offers procedurally generated levels, a wide variety of weapons, and fast-paced combat. Players explore a grim, ever-changing world as an amorphous cell.
  • Salt and Sanctuary: Salt and Sanctuary is often described as a 2D Dark Souls. It features a dark and challenging world with intricate level design, deep combat mechanics, and a wide range of character customization options.
  • Axiom Verge: Axiom Verge pays homage to classic Metroid games with its pixel art style and exploration-driven gameplay. Players uncover a mysterious and technologically advanced world filled with secrets and retro-inspired action.
  • Hollow Knight: Silksong (Upcoming Sequel): If you loved the original Hollow Knight, you’ll be pleased to know that Team Cherry is working on a sequel called Hollow Knight: Silksong. It promises to expand on the first game’s strengths while introducing new characters, abilities, and challenges. 

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Hollow Knight is a remarkable indie game that has garnered widespread acclaim for its atmospheric world, challenging gameplay, and engaging storytelling. While it may not be for everyone due to its difficulty and indirect narrative, those who appreciate a sense of discovery and the thrill of overcoming challenging obstacles will find it deeply rewarding. With its extensive content and regular updates, Hollow Knight has become a timeless classic in the indie gaming scene. If you’re a fan of this game, the alternative titles mentioned above should offer you a satisfying gaming experience in a similar vein.

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