More than a dozen hours into Hollow Knight, the 2D Metroidvania played a joke on me. It was a really good joke, and also kind of a mean one. Then again, most good video game jokes are a little mean.
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It's not every day you get assigned to write an article about how your boss is completely wrong, but this morning during one of our many discussions about the fantastic game Hollow Knight, Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo told me to write [Editor's note: suggested you write] about how wrong he is about the nails-tough platforming sections. Because they're actually great.
In the treacherous world of Super Mario Bros., it's useful, if not realistic for platforms to hover and fireballs to bounce. There's no logic to why things are that way. They just are. That's fine, but I enjoy when a game's designers find a way to justify the weird rules of their game, as the creators of Hollow Knight have about why their hero can't always use his map.
There are more than 150 different enemies in the fantastic Hollow Knight. While each one is entertainingly awful, some are more awful than others.
“Got him!” I exclaimed in a text message to my colleague Kirk Hamilton at 2:33PM on Friday of last week. I’d been fighting a tough boss in the difficult 2D exploration and combat game Hollow Knight. One minute later, horrified, I was sending a follow-up text: “Oh no. Didn’t get him.”
In Hollow Knight, looks can be deceiving. A sad little lamplit town may hide the entrance to a beautiful buried kingdom. A towering knight might turn out to be a sad, small thing in oversized armour. An onrushing green beast may actually be a wee creature disguised by a pile of leaves. And a simple-looking 2D action game can slowly unfurl into one of gaming's great adventures.
In a presentation at the White Nights conference last week, Valve business development head Jan-Peter Ewert put some figures on the disturbing reality for indie developers: the market is still very, very crowded. With the removal of Steam Greenlight and the straight-to-door Steam Direct approach, around 180 games get released every single week.
Even if most games find no audience at all, the increased noise makes it infinitely harder for good games to stand out. Fortunately, there's one platform where indies are continuing to find a second lease of life, or a successful first one.
Hollow Knight gets its first free DLC today, Hidden Dreams. Expect new bosses, more music, fast-travel, another Stag station, and other secret goodies.
Hollow Knight is probably one of, if not the indie game of the year so far. It's certainly up there for Metroidvania fans, and it's one of the highest quality games out of Australia in a long, long while.
But what if you don't like running around Hollow Knight with the basic melee attack? What if you'd like to play a different way?