Climbing the Bug Hierarchy in “Hollow Knight”


Nico Kusterer, Contributing Writer

The feeling of being small in a big world is expressed incredibly well in a game like Hollow Knight. In this 2D side-scrolling game developed by Team Cherry in 2017, you find yourself taking the role of a mysterious yet tiny bug, wielding a small “nail” as a weapon while wearing a large helmet. You enter the solemn and dimly-lit town of Dirtmouth, where the village elder informs you of a mysterious yet incredibly large underground abandoned kingdom crawling with life in the form of both enemies and allies. Although you could control the “Knight” above ground, the game really starts when you jump down below.This game can be described very well as a “Metroidvania,” a term used to describe 2D side-scrolling games in which you explore an expansive world and collect upgrades as you move along. The term comes from the portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, which are two game series that imitate exactly this type of gameplay. In Hollow Knight, you continuously add more moves and attacks to your arsenal, giving you a wide range of mobility options that help with platforming, and combat options that help with the strong enemies that you’ll find down below. While doing all of this training, you meet allies along the way that help you on your journey; whether it be a cartographer by the name of Cornifer who helps you map out the kingdom, or a fellow amnesiac and knight by the name of Quirrel. The Knight will even encounter blacksmiths to toughen his nail and increase damage input as well as various shopkeepers from whom he could buy items.Throughout the game, the Knight will find “charms” which he can use to give himself extra special abilities, which can either be offensive, defensive, or for better platforming. Although the Knight can only equip a certain amount of charms at once, the game provides a means of upgrading how much he can equip. My favorite charms always consisted of the ones that help with easing the difficult-to-master yet incredibly satisfying jumpy-and-slashy combat approach like the Longnail charm, which increases your nail’s range, or the Quick Slash, which allows the bearer to slash more quickly and effectively with their nail. The combat has its own physics system, making the player really feel the force of slashing with the Knight’s nail by pushing both the Knight and the enemy back. The Knight can even use his nail to pogo jump on enemies by slashing downwards, pushing him in the direction opposite of his slashes. Mastering the controls of Hollow Knight is not only the key to success but also the key to unlocking the feeling of becoming a bigger, more important bug in this big world.
The story of this game is incredibly fun to piece together, teaching you the lore of the kingdom and the past of the Knight as you go along. The overwhelming feeling of progression and satisfaction is what makes players fall in love with this game, as well as the cute yet high definition art style that is spread throughout every nook and cranny of this ancient, once bustling kingdom. (Meeting the various characters in the kingdom really makes you wonder about what the kingdom was like when it was once full of life.) Wanting to explore the kingdom is a natural feeling when playing this game, and Team Cherry rewards such exploration with charms and upgrades, so never be afraid to take a detour!
I highly recommend Hollow Knight to anyone interested in this genre of game but doesn’t want to play anything too difficult. Many will be attracted to the cutesy art-style and bug-like aesthetic, and others will gravitate towards the combat and platforming challenges. There truly is something for everyone in this game, and the fact that it’s cheap ($15 or less) and available on all modern consoles as well as PC makes it incredibly accessible to any type of gamer.