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Friday, April 1, 2022

Hollow Knight

Riding the heels of games like Dark Souls and the endless wave of "Metroid-likes" that the indie game avalanche has brought in, Hollow Knight is one that's gotten a lot of acclaim.  I honestly can't tell you why, though, as I didn't find much of interest or value here at all.  Rather than delivering a dense, diverse and captivating environment to explore, Hollow Knight's world is painted entirely in bleary washed-out monochrome, backgrounds are mostly blurred out to the point of being indistinguishable from one another, and its character designs are seemingly just prebuilt with the inevitable (but more importantly, lucrative) Funko Pop licensing deal in mind. Exploration and combat lack any feeling of depth, variety or reward, giving you a set of equipment and abilities less inspired by genre staples like Symphony of the Night or Super Metroid and more on level with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES, yet somehow lacking the intricacy of a game that came out nearly thirty years before it.  For a huge chunk of the game all you get is a short-ranged nail to attack with and a very slow heal move that takes far too long to charge and activate, making it all but useless in battle, and in addition to just the requisite walking and jumping, that's also the sum of ways you're afforded to interact with your environment and solve puzzles.  I thought perhaps the in-game shop could add some variety to the proceedings, but lo and behold, they've largely exhumed fun things like 'new abilities' and 'powerups' and 'equipment' and instead opted in to the Johnny Longtorso school of design, selling you standard things like keys and UI features one at a time for hundreds of coins apiece to artificially pad out the experience. And yes, having to grind money just to explore freely, mark key rooms and point out your own location on a minimap is asinine and not 'retro' in the slightest.  I will not be swayed on this, particularly as I've played several games from the early 80's that know better than to force this brand of horsecrap on you.  

Hollow Knight's story, such as it is, follows the same formula as Dark Souls too, hiding meaningless text fragments in out-of-the-way, cleverly hidden locations and framing the tedium of hunting them down and trying to fit them together as "rewarding ingenuity and cleverness".  Or to put it more bluntly, they're selling a box of newspaper shreds labeled in crayon as 'the most important literary masterwork since the Iliad" and marks are taking their silence in response to their theories as some kind of confirmation that they're all absolutely correct and that they're a genius too; just one far less successful than their gods at Team Cherry because of [their scapegoat of choice here]. Basically, if you think you have something to prove about how much of a profound thinker and an elite old-school gamer you are and how you're so much better and smarter than everyone else because of "your" choice in electronic toys, you'll play it through three or more times a day and brag about how you're the 67,385th person to unlock every one of its cheevos and endlessly overanalyze it on social media and gaming forums, putting hundreds of times more thought into every element of its design and writing than anyone who worked on it ever did while decrying anyone who doesn't share your high opinion of yourself for it as a "fake gamer" and probably a [scapegoat of choice here] too.  Otherwise, Hollow Knight is just more bluster sold by and to quasi-intellectual bullies only interested in being put on a pedestal and worshipped rather than using their public platform or any of their irreplaceable talents to benefit anyone besides themselves.  Personally I think there was a missed opportunity in not naming it "Shallow Knight" instead, but then again, that's probably too close-sounding to the name of an actually good game that effectively pays homage to a classic format while showcasing talent, passion and creativity from people who genuinely love retro video games, and not just making the most cheaply produced, easily marketable trendchaser they can to score an easy buck.

Being smug and condescending over selling you basic game mechanics at premium prices is a feature!

Developer: Team Cherry
Publisher: Team Cherry
Released: 2017
Platforms:  PC, MacOS, Linux, Switch, PS4, XBox One