Hollow Knight (PC) Review

By Athanasios 28.02.2017

Review for Hollow Knight on PC

Played Cave Story yet? If not, then do so. This one-man wonder of indie videogame development rightfully deserves its place right next the golden classics - the crazy thing is that it wasn't really original. Instead of providing something new, it just took and perfected elements from other titles (Metroidvania ones being the biggest inspiration), and crafted a world worth getting lost in for hours. Developed by a very small team, and, again, with little to no innovation, Hollow Knight might well be the one that will get to repeat history all over again, so join Cubed3 as it follows a cute, insectoid protagonist, enters a vast, underground microcosm with it, and basks in its magnificently gloomy aura.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is better than The Legend of Zelda, just like Super Metroid is far better than Metroid… but it's hard to deny the charm that those rough NES gems have, with their hostile, non-user-friendly lands being both a force of annoyance, as well as pure pleasure. There's something magical about being thrown into a gargantuan world, left to discover its secrets on your own - in other words, have an adventure.

Hollow Knight is pretty much like that. Following a small warrior bug on its quest to… something, don't expect any help in conquering its trap-filled, subterranean kingdom; a kingdom where skill is King. Luckily, while a very demanding title that provides little to no hand-holding, the controls at hand are beyond perfection - so much that although the developer strongly suggests the use of a gamepad, keyboard users won't really notice the difference.

This leaves players having to focus on one thing, which is the exploration of Hallownest and the dangers that lie within it. In typical Metroidvania fashion, there is a need to search every crack and crevice to find a plethora of items and ways that will enable going deeper into the labyrinth, whether that's a wall-jump move, the uncovering of a shortcut, or a nice little key. Being devoid of any helpful quest markers or explanations, however, part of the challenge is actually finding where to go.

Screenshot for Hollow Knight on PC

It will take more than 10 hours (at least) to come close to the end of these insect-filled caverns, especially since players will have no idea what path to follow and what must be done. Apart from a level structure that avoids conveniently placing save points all over the place, a perfect example of the lack of hand-holding is that the cartographer must be found before being able to buy a map from him; a cartographer who is an absent-minded fellow and is not exactly a piece of cake to find.

Now, while the average person has been spoiled by most modern games, and can, therefore, get enraged after spending more than 10 (or more) minutes of "pointless" backtracking, this is not a title made for a very selected few - it just needs some getting used to, as well as a big love and/or thirst for exploration. Sure, the absence of "go there" signs is a double-edged sword, but it's a sword that the industry is definitely in need of.

Fortunately, there are tons of things to do while trying to figure out what must be done here. There are Charms to find that grant passive abilities, Notches that enable the use of more of these fine trinkets, lots of enemies to slay and add to a journal, or helpless insects to save, skills to get, routes to find, and many boss battles to enjoy, which, by the way, are a-freaking-awesome, something that has a lot to do with the simple, yet well-crafted fighting mechanics.

Screenshot for Hollow Knight on PC

Besides the aforementioned top-notch controls, battles turn out to be quite enjoyable because they need more than just swinging the Knight's sword (called 'Nail'). While the first critters are like that, enemies start to get more and more dangerous, with the environment many times "co-operating" with them to kill it, forcing players to keep many balls in the air. Generally, fighting here can many times become an elaborate dance where you must first think before striking a blow.

The bosses are exactly like that, with the only difference that they are way stronger and dangerous, have more complex move patterns, and swift and precise reactions become a definite must when facing those arthropod beasts. A nice mechanic that improves the whole deal, and shows how this is all about skill, is the use of Soul, which is basically the Mana pool that enables the use of various special abilities, with the most basic one being the healing spell.

Simply put, in order to heal, you press the 'focus' button, which lets the Knight use some of its Soul. The tricky part is that gathering Soul needs hitting (not killing) enemies, which means that healing, say, during a boss fight, requires hitting him/her in order to get some to use. Moreover, healing takes a few seconds, so it's not just about hitting a button. Instead, being careful where and, most importantly, when to heal is imperative.

Screenshot for Hollow Knight on PC

Hollow Knight's heavy-on-skill mind-set, the fact that after dying the player must go back to its "corpse" in order to regain the gathered Geo (the currency used), or risk losing them after dying a second time, the joy of finding a resting place to save… does it feel somewhat familiar? Yes, this has a very strong Dark Souls vibe to it, which leads to another wonderful thing about the adventure: its almost tangible, gloomy, and melancholic atmosphere.

Hallownest is definitely not the Mushroom Kingdom. Despite the cute sprites, which, by the way, have an insane amount of character, the dark locales these live in have an almost post-apocalyptic aura; it's a place that reeks of past grandeur; a place of history. The Tim Burton-esque, sombre palette kind of makes everything look similar, but the crisp-clean, hand-painted graphics can only be described as flawless and stunning.

Apart from an OST filled with soft and sad violin and piano melodies, another big similarity with Soulsbourne games is the insanely cryptic, dreamlike plot, which, to be honest, is the weakest part of this, otherwise, enchanting quest. While the absence of exposition spoon-feeding is great, the storyline is way too vague and hard to grasp for it to be enjoyable. It's intriguing, and far from bad or annoying, but it won't really be the driving force behind your attempts to reach the ending.

Screenshot for Hollow Knight on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Hollow Knight is anything but hollow. Cut from the same cloth as Metroid (and a little bit of Dark Souls), its beautifully gloomy, as well as cute, hand-painted underground world, offers one of the best time sinks ever made; and one where skill is definitely in the spotlight. Its plot could be a bit more accessible, and the lack of hand-holding can sometimes be annoying, but these "flaws" can't really crack the surface of this diamond.


Team Cherry


Team Cherry


2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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