50 Best Games of 2017: #17 – Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight

Developer: Team Cherry
Publisher: Team Cherry
Platform(s): PC

Our 50 best games of the year countdown isn’t in any order, we’re just going through fifty of the finest the year has given us. Find out more here.

Hollow Knight is a 2D platformer in the Metroidvania style, that is to say, a 2D style platformer that focuses on a sprawling maps, exploration, character progression, platforming challenges and boss battles. The player controls an unnamed ‘bug’ (looks like a human Stag beetle, but I’m no anthropomorphic entomologist, so what do I know), referred to as ‘The Knight’. The Knight is tasked with navigating a dark, depressing world in which insects act as stand-ins for humans.

Very little in the way of character motivation or plot are directly exposed by the game. The main plot of the game – much like a Metroidvania game – is left up to the player to work out where they need to go next and how to get there. Story and lore are mainly delivered through exploration, NPC interactions and a hunting journal (much like Metroid Prime’s database of scanned enemies), whilst remaining cryptic enough about the plot to keep the player postulating.

The gameplay heavily is inspired by the Metroidvania genre. The map, level and area designs are very reminiscent of the 2D Metroid series, whilst the core combat lives up to the Castlevania portion of Metroidvania. In it’s simplest form, enemies will briefly telegraph their attack, then expect you to respond appropriately or suffer pain. This style of combat creates some very challenging and exhilarating boss encounters that kicked my ass more than a few times (particularly the Dream Bosses).

Character progression is robust, with something like seven separate progression systems that all contribute to The Knight’s strength, flexibility, magic prowess, speed and just overall power level. The Knight is in a perpetual state of growth right up until the end, keeping element of character progression fresh, interesting and ever marching onward.

Hollow Knight boasts a well-put-together and dark atmospheric soundtrack (the City of Tears theme is incredible) and a unique art-style which really help to distinguish itself as a unique experience in its own right. Finally, the game has a lot to offer for a game of its type and price (my first playthrough was almost 18 hours long and far from 100%) and offers an Ironman challenge (Steel Soul Mode, 1 life only) for those that seek pain.

This is the type of indie game that wears its inspiration on its sleeve proudly. Early Nintendo games are readily apparent, but Hollow Knight in particular absolutely adores the Metroid series. One doesn’t have to look particularly hard to see the many Metroid references, some even taking the form of some very one-the-nose homages! Which as a Metroid fan, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Hollow Knight is still being updated via free DLCs, with the first two of the three already (Hidden Dreams and The Grimm Troupe) released and the last on its way. It currently retails for $14.99 USD on Steam. So, if you’re a fan of the Metroid series, or even the Metroidvania style of game, the experience is more than worth the price, twice over.

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