Welcome to Late to the Game, a blog post series where I explore games that I have played long after everyone else has finished them! This week, we’re looking at Hollow Knight, a 2017 platformer by Team Cherry.
“I’m going to be a little bug now,” I frequently stated over the past few weeks. This was my not-so-subtle code for, “I’m going to go play Hollow Knight now.” In my mind, it sounded very clever and cute, but in reality, maybe it just shows my obsession with Team Cherry’s 2017 masterpiece of a game. There’s something alluring about being a little bug. Something exciting.
Hollow Knight has been a long time in the making, debuting on Kickstarter in 2014 and reaching its funding goal soon after. It would take over two years for the game to finish its development, releasing for Windows in early 2017, then on other computer platforms a couple of months later. More recently, the Nintendo Switch picked up the game, which is where I have finally played it.
The game itself can be described as a Metroidvania game, a genre defined by its large maps (as opposed to specific levels) and action packed platforming style. That being said, Hollow Knight takes some risks the Metroid and Castlevania games don’t. For one, it’s really hard. I’ve still not beaten the game fully, and there are many areas that frustrate me to no end (the White Palace, anyone?), but that doesn’t mean that the game hasn’t been fun. There’s a certain enjoyment derived from successfully completing a difficult part of a game. I’ve sent many a triumphant text message over the past two weeks, declaring what hellish area I just conquered. Online forums are packed with posts begging for help in the more difficult areas of the game, and those who have finished those parts wear it like a badge of pride.
The game also deserves major kudos for being cute. Yes, you read that right. Aesthetics aren’t everything in a game, but they do help the game feel more fully realized. The protagonist of the game is, well, a little bug, and every moment they (the game doesn’t gender the protagonist--and in fact it seems like gender is more of an anomaly for bugs like them, but more on that later) jump, run, fight, etc. is adorable. Even when murdering, the bug has a wide eyed innocence.
The plot of the game doesn’t get delivered all at once, nor does it ever become completely clear. In a game like this, that’s okay though, and the story is clear enough to be enjoyable. The true fun in Metroidvania games is learning the system, learning the tools to use for the right situations, and beating certain areas that provide a significant challenge.
Part of the lore of the game is that the protagonist is a Vessel created to defeat the Hollow Knight, but the fact that the protagonist serves a purpose in lieu of being an actual person means that they have no gender and no real defining features. Gender actually seems like a Big Deal to Vessels, as the one gendered Vessel you meet in the game seems like a bit of an outcast. Overall, this bit of lore piqued my interest, but I’m not sure what I think about it just yet.
If you like oldschool platformers like Super Metroid or even something newer like Shovel Knight, check out Hollow Knight. It might not be the most complex story (though the lore assembled by fans on its Wiki page says otherwise), but it does provide hours of challenging fun and adventure, filled with wonder, exploration, and cuteness.