Knowing nothing about Hollow Knight going in - besides that it was a Metroidvania - I was extremely surprised that a hand drawn 2D game could evoke the gloomy and utterly depressing atmosphere of From Software’s Souls series.
The parallels between the games don’t stop at the aesthetics, as Team Cherry - a three man team based in Australia - took inspiration from the Souls series’ intertwined levels that are filled with hidden shortcuts and secret treasures. While exploring the caves below the city of Dirtmouth, I found myself facing many locked doors, initially unreachable platforms and giant enemies, who, in one case, inadvertently destroyed a section of wall which led to hidden treasure. On your travels you meet an array of colourful characters who provide you with the lore of the world and, when you eventually reach the surface, will provide you with essential tools and abilities used to navigate and conquer the chasms below. You buy these tools and abilities through coins collected from fallen foes, treasure chests, and various mineral deposits scattered throughout the decrepit caverns.
Insectoid enemies are the norm, and while the combat starts simple, it requires some relatively precise dodging and, judging by the way the game was progressing, will eventually get more complex. Outside of the bugs, there is a nice variety of humanoid-insect hybrid enemies that attack in different ways, including one that charges head first with a deadly spear on his head. There are also, of course, various bosses and mini-bosses within the depths which provide a great challenge. When you die, you are stripped of your coins and your body splits with a dark spirit. To reclaim your wealth you must return to the dark spirit and destroy it. It’s an interesting twist on the Souls series’ bloodstain mechanic.
This is all brought to life by a hauntingly beautiful hand drawn aesthetic, which is coupled with a sparse and ambient soundtrack that encapsulates the isolated, foreboding and hollowed ancient world you explore. Characters and enemies are distinct and colourful enough to never blend in with the desolate backgrounds.
I’m really surprised at how much I enjoyed the Hollow Knight Sneak Peak, considering it was an added bonus in this month’s monthly Humble Bundle. I’m greatly anticipating the full game, especially since it ended just as I started getting really into it.
You can pre-order Hollow Knight at http://hollowknight.com/ which is coming early 2017 on Steam (PC, Mac & Linux) and the Wii U.