What a strange fate that of metroidvania. From a genre relegated to portable consoles and almost disappeared from the market, this particular type of video game has become a bulwark of the independent world, a perfect combination of depth and fun chosen by many young software houses to demonstrate their skills - also by virtue of the fairly limited costs. at the development level. With a myriad of longtime players abstinent from Metroid and Castlevania, and Kickstarter bridging, its rebirth has been swift and very rich; all despite the structural complexity made it approachable only by the most talented of indie programmers. After surprises like Axiom Verge, Ori and the Blind Forest and Valdis Story, however, there was no quality metroidvania for a while, at least until Hollow Knight, a project created by Australian Team Cherry, appeared. And believe us when we tell you that today's title can easily be compared to the names just mentioned, because - after having thrown ourselves into the project with medium expectations - we came out of the experience amazed and with not a few scars.
Hollow Knight is a real surprise: don't ignore it just because there is no shortage of big games this year
Insects and darkness
It is not a crystalline plot that of Hollow Knight, rather it is as dark as the game world: a dark and inhospitable place inhabited by anthropomorphic insects, unmentionable monstrosities, and mysterious forces that govern existence.
Here, you play a small silent warrior, ready to venture into the meanders of Hallownest (this is the name of the kingdom in which it all takes place) for who knows what reason. Clearly there is a reason for your raids, but don't expect a typical narration from the Team Cherry game: Hollow Knight is full of clues, colorful characters and fascinating moments, which must be collected and revealed from time to time as if they were objects to be discovered. Putting the puzzle together will not be easy, yet once done we assure you that it will not fail to give you great satisfaction. Pleasures that, to say it all, also derive in large part from the gameplay of the title, since we are not faced with a common metroidvania. Once you have begun the exploration of Hallownest you will immediately realize that you are unaware not only of your identity, but also of the map, which will be collected in pieces by a peculiar character with a passion for travel and will be gradually updated as soon as you reach the rare benches to rest (some stickers to buy in a shop in the initial village allow you to indicate important shops and areas). This is certainly not a common feature for a game that makes the complexity of the maps one of its main qualities, but it is clearly designed to increase the player's anguish as he explores, and to give more sense to his wandering. You could seriously spend dozens of minutes in an area and even get to its boss without finding the map vendor, so it's always a good idea to stop and take a good look around, to avoid any nasty surprises.
Lost in the immense
Indeed, the choice to manage exploration in this way is both Hollow Knight's strong point and worst flaw. We explain ourselves better: while we understand that it is a design choice, necessary in order not to make the player sit on their laurels and keep the adrenaline high when reaching new locations, the developers could have worked a little better on shortcuts and navigability. of the game world.
The collection of movement maneuvers necessary to fully explore the global map (it is still a metroidvania, so expect many areas unreachable initially without the right powers) is very slow, and the various settings are not only extensive but often labyrinthine and full of enemies; moving from one point to another can be a long and tedious operation, and the areas that allow you to use the rapid transport are even more rare than the refreshment areas - which are also the game's save points. We therefore find ourselves having to do more backtracking than normal, even in a genre where backtracking is essential, with a considerable weight on the overall pace. It is fortunate that the rest of the title is truly excellent, because at least this lack takes second place in front of an impressive mass of quality, starting with the excellent management of combat and advancement. The first, predictably, is very simple, and starts with our alter ego barely able to give a few broadsides with the help of a sword-nail, and jump around. As you advance, however, you get various maneuvers, from charged shots to super shots, passing through a sort of spiritual Hadouken and a slow cure (both of which can be used by absorbing soul from the enemies hit). Overall, therefore, we find ourselves with various tools available, all very important to get the better of the fierce enemies of the game.
The mosquito and the light
On the other hand, the difficulty always remains at very high levels, despite a fair amount of freedom being given in the choice of advanced areas to be tackled.
It does not matter where you go and in what order you face the maps: in each location you will find some extremely difficult bosses to face, progressively more difficult platform sections, and a long series of common opponents with variable resistances and behaviors. Hollow Knight, in short, is relentless; capable of making even veterans of the genre and long-time players struggle at times, and so full of secrets that it puts a strain on both the memory of those who face it and the patience of those who underestimate it. Consider that the game also boasts multiple endings - obtaining which is anything but a walk - a huge bestiary to compile, scattered vermicelli to save, various optional bosses and a long list of equippable amulets that allow you to customize the style of play with numerous bonuses; completists, you are warned. Cotanto ben di dio is then accompanied by an exceptional cartoon graphics for a 2D game, close to professional animation and animated with a rare grace, within settings of rare beauty for a similar product. Even stylistically, Team Cherry's work has a lot to say, thanks to an unmistakably gloomy atmosphere, but toned down by the cute insectoids that populate Hallownest and their constant verse. The only technical flaw that can be attributed to the game is the presence of annoying shots that do not seem to depend on the configuration used (we tested the game on two PCs, both well above the recommended specifications, yet the shots remained), and which can create Serious difficulties during the difficult boss battles or the elaborate leaps required to reach the most hidden areas. Annoying, true, but quietly negligible.
CommentTested version PC Windows Digital Delivery Steam, Nintendo eShop Price 14,99 € Resources4Gaming.com
2017 will also be filled with top-tier triple-A productions, but that doesn't mean indie works don't deserve attention, especially when they reach the heights of Hollow Knight. Maybe within the metroidvania genre the work of Team Cherry does not reinvent anything, but it remains a splendid game, well-kept, as hard as few and long-lived, which we undoubtedly recommend to all fans of these titles. Seriously, don't ignore it ... you risk missing out on one of the best games of the year.
- Artistically splendid, and graphically well-kept
- Huge, long-lived, and full of secrets
- Constant high difficulty, which will put a lot of players' reflexes to the test
- He doesn't reinvent anything within the genre
- Managing maps, checkpoints and fast travel make backtracking too much at times
- Some annoying scatterello can create problems during the most demanding phases