HANDS ON: Hollow Knight

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I love a well done indie game, and there were games galore at the Indie Pavilion at PAX Aus this year. One of the games featured in the PAX Indie Showcase was Hollow Knight, a 2D atmospheric platforming title created by Team Cherry.

Team Cherry are a developer group from Adelaide who created the basis for Hollow Knight in response to the Game Jam prompt “beneath the surface.” I chatted to the artist and animator, Ari Gibson, to get an insight on exactly what inspired the concept.

“…the game design itself is (inspired by) Metroid… a bit Metroid, a bit Zelda 2. So old Nintendo style games… It’s meant to have a bit of a retro-like quality.”

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You play as an unnamed bug traversing the underground kingdom of Hollownest, exploring, saving the lost villagers of Dirtmouth,the last remaining town above the surface, and uncovering the mysteries and lore. As I chatted with Ari, he gave me a sense of exactly what Hollow Knight is all about.

“Your main objective is actually something that becomes, well, there are several options, but your main one becomes evident as you go through. So when you first get there, your main objective as the player is to work out who you are. The character has returned to this kingdom, or is coming for the first time and you’re trying to work out what’s happened to the place and then you start to work out how you are involved in that, and what you can do to either rectify (the wrongs) or not… There is a storyline, it’s a game where the kingdom itself has a story about how it fell, and then (your character) has a connection to the world. But it’s up to the player to do that. If they want to dig around in the side roads and discover all the lore they can, but if they’re the type of player that just wants to go through the middle of it they can also have an experience, get to the end, know a little bit about the world, but maybe not uncover the deeper secrets.”

The game has multiple endings, all occurring in the same location, but differing depending on the choices you’ve made throughout the game. It’s rather nice to see such a deep backstory and lore connected to a 2D platformer that may initially seem non-complex. It reminds me of titles made on RPG maker, utilising a certain format, but making a standout product through the depth they impart onto it.

Hollow Knight has very simplistic controls, with only a hack, a healing function and a jump which varies on height depending on how long you hold the button. Further into the game however, your character gains more health points and gains new skills that you can utilise.

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A standout feature that I really loved in my sort play through of the game is that when you die, you leave a shadow of your prior self in the area. When you attempt to traverse it again, you must also fight and kill this old version of yourself in order to collect the coins you lost in death. The shadow also mimics the state you were in when you died, retaining the skills and abilities of your character.

Hollow Knight is an easily enjoyable game. It immediately engaged with its beautiful animation style and interesting story, and definitely looks to be a title to look forward to. It will be available in Q4 2015 for Mac, Linux, PC and Wii U. 

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