Over quarantine, I spent most of my time playing Hollow Knight. And I’m really glad that I did: it’s become my favorite game of all time. Hollow Knight unites discovery, challenge, fantasy, and narrative in a way that’s incredibly captivating.
Beginning with the core gameplay mechanics, the base actions are quite simple: walk, run, attack, jump (and double jump), and some basic spells which get upgraded as you continue. However, while these mechanics may seem extremely simple, players quickly find creative implementations of the core mechanics. For instance, players can “pogo,” or slash downwards, on enemies and even traverse spike pits by doing so, allowing them to reach secret areas of the game and unlock secret achievements. I was immediately enamored by the platforming and battle mechanics of the game due to the challenge and creativity involved.
This brings us to the secondary point: discovery. As a Metroidvania, Hollow Knight encourages not only exploration, but also exploration which brings players back to areas they initially believe that they have already “finished exploring.” For instance, there will always be areas which are initially impossible to reach without the unlocking of extra abilities (ie: double jump, long dashes, etc). Players will be able to see the beginnings of the areas, but will not be able to reach them: bringing them back to areas they’ve already seen for more.
Finally, the fantasy and narrative aspects of the game were what brought me back time and time again. The lore of the video game: despite it being a game that looks, on the surface, to be about a bug’s cute adventures through this underground world, has a huge amount of lore and storytelling behind it. Moreover, the story is revealed slowly and in a vague way, leaving the players guessing at every turn of the story. The game is so packed with secrets that entire Youtube channels have been devoted to the lore and discovery of new information within the world of Hollow Knight.
Ultimately, the marriage of all of the aspects: challenge, discovery, fantasy, and narrative, bring me back to the game despite me having finished the vast majority of it.