Metroid and Castlevania took the idea of the action game and the platformer merging them together. Through refinement and reiteration, we have what is now referred to as the Metroidvania subgenre. This has been a fairly popular subgenre spawning games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Dust an Elysian Tale. Team Cherry has thrown their hat into the ring with the recently released Metroidvania style game called Hollow Knight.
The introduction of Hollow Knight is that of a morose yet charming world, seeing the adventurer armed with a nail wander into Hollownest, which was once the grandest kingdom in the world. The times of prosperity have long passed, what is found is a surface town called Dirtmouth and an elder whom warns of the allure of the underground. Stating that many went underground seeking adventure or wealth but none returned having gone insane. Each character is an insect, which fits the theme well. Whether its the Elder, the Stag which acts as a quick travel between stations or the grubs which are trapped in jars needing rescue.
The world building done here is eerily reminiscent of the Souls series, this is a world that at this point has been doomed, you aren’t preventing catastrophe. Catastrophe has come and now what remains is exploring the fading kingdom and restoring what little semblance of order can be had. As NPCs are discovered and communicated with you will get little tidbits of what the world once was. Like other Souls games, some NPCs once found will move to the hub area acting as a merchant for the Hollow Knight.
A key element in this game is exploring, you start the game with no map, simply traversing platforms to find your way. The platforming is precise, allowing for a relatively good amount of control over your character mid-jump. This ability to change direction is vital as some enemies are airborne and early on your only way to fight them is with the Nail or Vengeful Spirit. The controls make it easy to dodge hits from even the larger targets and get back into melee range and start swinging again. As you enter each new area you will find a cartographer NPC whom will sell you a map for a few Geos which is the currency. Geos can be found by smashing certain rocks and defeating enemies.
Combat being a key element in any action game was well done here, the key elements are melee attacks and magic. Magic uses Soul which can only be regenerated by melee attacking enemies. You start with one magic ability which allows you to heal by draining your Soul, this makes the early game easier for less skilled players as it allows room for mistakes. Though early on in the first area you receive the spell Vengeful Spirit which fires in a straight line in whichever direction the knight is facing.
As you progress through the remains of Hollownest you’ll find benches, these benches act as checkpoints, which heal you, update your map if you bought the quill and also allow the equipping of badges. You start with two badge slots and three notches. Each badge fills notch slots, in other words at the start if you have two badges that each use up two notch slots, you cannot equip both of them. When you die you will start at the most recently used bench having dropped all of your Geos and your Spirit will be cracked. A marker will be on your map in the location you died, when you get to the marker you don’t find a stain or sack of Geos, but instead a specter of yourself. The music changes and the ghost attacks, you have to defeat your shadow to become whole again and regain your Geos.