This bug’s life epic is far from a small ad­ven­ture

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENT - @MrOs­carTK

Ev­ery time you think you reach the edge of Hol­low Knight’s large, sprawl­ing world, you re­alise there’s more to see. The world de­sign al­ways has an an­swer to your at­tempts to ex­plore and eke out more about the ru­ined, an­cient bug-city of Hal­lownest. Not just what hides within the mines one early cor­ri­dor hints at, but what lies above The City Of Tears with its ever-drip­ping rain­fall, or what’s beyond the Failed Tramway.

In broad terms, Hol­low Knight is a Metroid­va­nia. You ex­plore, dis­cover new ar­eas, and find up­grades and power-ups, some of which let you ac­cess lo­ca­tions you couldn’t get to be­fore. But what’s fan­tas­tic is while the game works as a whole with these com­po­nents, each area feels like its own mi­cro­cosm of the loop it ex­cels at de­liv­er­ing. This means each time you be­gin to mas­ter an area, you’re again put on the back foot by un­earthing a new en­vi­ron­ment. You al­ways feel like you’re ven­tur­ing into the un­known.


Each area has breath­tak­ing new twists, vis­ually and me­chan­i­cally, and you find your­self with­out a map of the area when en­ter­ing for the first time. Cornifer, just one of the help­ful bugs you en­counter through­out the course of the game, will sell you a map. Even then, it’s bare-bones, and only up­dated when your lit­tle bug knight ad­ven­turer takes a rest at one of the game’s benches that act as save points and al­low you change your load­out.

Like ev­ery­thing else you stum­ble upon in Hol­low Knight, the benches feel like epic dis­cov­er­ies as you forge out into the un­known. Fast travel points like the di­lap­i­dated Stag Sta­tions, be­tween which you ride The Last Stag, feel vi­tal be­cause of their scarcity. Af­ter all, if you die, you need to reach that point again to re­cover your lost soul (and pre­cious Geo, the game’s cur­rency).

Pur­chasable charms tweak how you play, giv­ing buffs like ex­tra reach for your nail (your sword, be­cause you’re a tiny lit­tle bug per­son), or a lit­tle swarm that pick up loose Geo around you. You only have a lim­ited num­ber of slots, with more use­ful charms tak­ing up more slots, so you’ll of­ten need to think what you af­ford to spend the slots on for a given sit­u­a­tion. De­vi­ously, even the com­pass charm that marks your lo­ca­tion on the map takes up a notch. Do you re­ally need


to know where you are in these sprawl­ing labyrinths?


Fight­ing your way through the Hal­lownest caves feels like it has a lot of weight. Your nail strikes by de­fault knock you back, which works ex­cel­lently as you get used to it, cre­at­ing dis­tance as you read en­emy at­tacks. You can even pogo­stick your way over en­e­mies by do­ing this, and some plat­form­ing chal­lenges re­ward this sort of creative think­ing. How you in­ter­act with this world has a de­light­ful phys­i­cal con­text, along­side the things like the maps and charms – ev­ery­thing makes sense within the game’s own world rules.

Bosses are hard, though the or­der in which you’ll have to fight them – or whether you have to fight them at all – is open from early on. You of­ten have the op­tion to search in­stead for new charms, or more up­grades to your skillset or nail. It’s a world you ex­plore at your own pace. And with all four con­tent packs al­ready in­cluded in this PS4 de­but, that’s a lot to ex­plore.

While it’s chal­leng­ing, you al­ways feel like you’re in con­trol over how you move with the D-pad, or like you can change up your ap­proach with your load­out. Soul pow­ers let you re­store health af­ter a small charge, built up by hit­ting en­e­mies, so you can find an open­ing to make a come­back, even in the hard­est of fights. Again, ev­ery­thing feels built around the world in a way that makes sense, and is a joy to ex­plore, how­ever fright­en­ing that un­known can be at times.


Be­low The Fun­goons’ gas at­tacks are nasty. What do these guys eat?!

Right Ev­ery new area presents things out to squish your bug. Like green poi­son wa­ter.

Above left As you gain mas­tery over the world, the world evolves to kill you.

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