November 02, 2015

PAX Australia Indie Hands On – Hollow Knight

One of the games I was most excited to check out was Hollow Knight, a kickstarter game that has held my interest since it was announced.  Set in a visually stunning world, this action adventure game was something else.

When I first started up the demo, the thing I noted was just how beautiful the game was, even with the distinct lack of vibrant colours, it still managed to exude a sense of awe. There are later parts of the game where colour does start to appear and when it does, it pops against the black and white backgrounds in a really wonderful way. As the titular Hollow Knight, you start off with only a small number of abilities, namely jumping and attacking, but as the game progresses, you will discover more. The attacking was the one I had the most trouble with though as it has a cool bonus move attached, you can attack in the direction that you are facing, as well as above you if you push the stick in that direction, the challenge I faced comes with when you jump down and point the stick down, you will attack down, allowing you to deal damage to enemies you might land upon, but if you time it right you will be able to launch yourself off the enemy and back up higher, which can help in getting to higher platforms. Or at least that is what the developer told me, at no point was I able to actually achieve it myself, the timing has to be spot on or you will take damage yourself.

Once I finally moved on from that, I started to explore the world in earnest, with platforms on the edges of the screen for climbing and descending to new areas, the first thing I thought was, this is very Metroid, with platforms stacked in odd formations to allow you to get to where you want to go, even some of the enemies move around in similar ways, but all that changed when I discovered the town. There were a few citizens of this subterranean world, who when you speak to will give hints, the way to save your progress in town at least, is to sit upon a park bench. There are doors you can enter and explore inside of, but for me it was about moving forward and exploring more of the world, which came to fruition when I fell down a well, which led me to a much larger area than I expected. After some exploration, I discovered the first power-up that you will get in the game, as you defeat enemies, you will collect pieces of their soul, which when you get enough you can use to recharge your health, but only small parts at a time. Doing so requires you to stand still as well, so you need to select your moment well.

After a few minutes of exploring, I discovered a hermit style person, sitting down on the ground, he was exploring the caves to make maps, so he could find his way back later on, he kindly provided me with a map, which is how you get it, but in a typical Zelda fashion, without a compass I could not see where I was, or anything else for that matter. After heading downward further, I found myself surrounded by some enemies that were quite formidable and proved my downfall, which just proves that even early on the game will challenge players. After I reloaded at the bench, I went past the well and discovered a temple of sorts, with a guardian inside who proceeded to provide me with more information, after which I went back and jumped down the well.  This time I went a different direction and found myself face to face with an enemy that flew and were able to shoot things at me, it proved to be such a challenge, that when I defeated it, I was elated, but that did not last as two more of those things appeared and killed me, which is where things get really tricky.

When you die in combat, your soul, for one way of describing it haunts the space you died in, but it will attack you when you come near it, which means you will need to defeat it. Should you do that, you will collect all the items you picked up again, which means you cash and such, if you fail to defeat it, you lose it all, so you will want to make sure you win. If you die by hitting spikes or such, you won’t have to deal with this problem, but you will still lose all the items you picked up between your last save and then.

My time with Hollow Knight was brief, but such at the experiences at events like PAX, I really want more time with the game, it is really shaping up to be something amazing. It controls really well and looks amazing, with the game on track for release early next year for PC and Wii U it is going to be something special.

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