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Hollow Knight (Switch) Review

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Hollow Knight delighted then frustrated. 
Hollow Knight delighted then frustrated.
And on and on it went until the credits rolled.

Hollow Knight walks and talks like a Metroidvania title but after a bit of time it’s obvious that it’s a more sinister and annoying variant of those types of games.

Many of the choices Team Cherry made were reminiscent of Dark Souls where the developers intentionally stripped away modern conveniences in to develop a fear of dying. I didn’t fear dying though; I’m used to the minor inconvenience of running back for my soul/currency. In fact, I actually developed a dread for exploration.

I was annoyed and bewildered by the idea of not drawing in the map until I owned a map of said area. Having to wander around in the figurative and literal dark was not my idea of fun. It was a cute idea the first time around but as the areas got more complex and dangerous, that feeling of curiosity was replaced with perplexity.

Back tracking is par for the course in these types of games. I don’t mind trekking all the way back to the beginning and unearthing new treasures with my newfound abilities. Hollow Knight’s one ups other games in this subgenre by evolving certain areas in significant ways as I defeated story centric bosses. I just wished the game automatically noted secrets.

There’s an unlockable pin system for the maps but I just never remembered to use them. Plus it’s not a particularly entertaining mechanic for me.

I wasn’t thrilled with the exploration aspects of the game but the combat and platforming were pitch perfect; to be honest, it carried me towards completion. The combat mechanics were straightforward but slicing up enemy bugs with the nail felt gratifying. I would have liked a broader array of moves to play with though. The fear of losing my only source of health regeneration kept the idea of using spells other than healing at bay. When I’m faced with the dilemma of dealing more damage or the ability to erase my mistakes, I’m always going to pick the latter.

“What if I need it?”

That was the concern that plagued me in this game. I never felt confident enough to pull off the damage dealing spells. I felt they often left me way too vulnerable with their long cast and recovery times compared to the basic attacks. This was especially true against the boss fights.

The non-essential boss fights in this game were by far the toughest boss fights I ever encountered in recent memory. A lot of it was pattern recognition but sometimes I was just underpowered and needed to augment my abilities with upgrades or equipment changes. However, my stubbornness meant I often refused to back down and kept trying to beat these bosses via immaculate execution.

Nail upgrades improved strength. Charms, on the other hand, worked like a Call of Duty Pick 10 class system where I was given a limited number of slots to shift and augment my little bug warrior. If I wanted to increase the range of my nail attacks, I could do that. If I really wanted to increase the range and heal faster, I can do that as well but then I would have to give up the ability to see my current location on the map. It was an interesting system that could have benefitted with loadouts.

Hollow Knight was cute. It was a game filled with bugs, unsettling stories of a destroyed kingdom and fallen warriors. I didn’t pay attention to most of it; I merely basked in its overarching ambiance. I completed the first ending with 82% world completion and had my fill. I completely missed an area of Hollow Knight and did not feel the desire to go find it after the fact. I was leaving Hollow Knight delighted and I didn’t want it to follow through to frustration.

It was okay

Ratings Guide

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