HOLLOW KNIGHT: VOIDHEART EDITION
This bug’s life epic is far from a small adventure
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.
WHAT A CHARMER
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
“EACH TIME YOU BEGIN TO MASTER AN AREA, YOU’RE PUT ON THE BACK FOOT.”
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.
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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.