Overall - 80%
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition shakes up the MetroidVania space with excellent worldbuilding and the challenge to match. Though the game does not hold your hand, those willing to face the world of Hallownest will find a game with a lot of "Soul."
Team Cherry transports players to a desolate land with the release of Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition. Offering players exploration-heavy gameplay with an emphasis on experimentation, does the world of Hallownest offer enough to entice players into its land?
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition Review
Players are thrown to the wolves right from the get-go. As a small little creature, players are thrown into a world rife with danger, secrets, and lore. The underground holds a lot of things to explore, and the sprawling map contains secret passageways, upgrades, NPCs, and lore to discover.
Those who have worked their way through other “MetroidVania” titles like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night will no doubt be familiar with the structure found in this title. Those just starting out will be little weaklings with only a nail to their name, but scouring the lands will help players discover new lands, formidable bosses, and the ever-important upgrades that allow players to travel to new zones. New abilities like the “Monarch Wings” that provide a double jump or the ground-destroying “Desolate Dive” might seem insignificant, but these are woven into the design of each world, encouraging players to explore every nook and cranny.
The work that went into Hallownest’s map is second to none. The layout of each world is designed so that each section connects well with one another. There is some backtracking to be found (especially when it comes to tracking down merchants, the bank, and the blacksmith), but it is never done to an extreme. If anything, the development team went out of their way to streamline the process – Stagway stations can be unlocked that allow for fast travel, and doors can be unlocked from the other side, making it easy to get from one area to another fairly quickly after finishing a particularly challenging section.
That’s not to say the game is easy – far from it. Though players can utilize Soul gained from striking enemies to regenerate their health reserves, this is one title that hits hard and fast. Enemies will fly every which way, basic grunts have fakeout attacks and multiple phases, and there seem to be spikes and lasers everywhere you look. There are some cheap shots and setups – certain sections force players to take down minibosses or enemies to simply save or access a map maker.
Despite all of this, all attacks are deliberate, and though there is a learning curve in place, it never comes across as unfair. Death has players leaving an otherworldly Shade in the world, one they must defeat to regain their Geo currency and repair their Soul meter. It can be frustrating to fight through multiple sections to get back what you had before, but it encourages players to look before they leap – a nice touch.
To make the journey a little easier, players can equip Charms that can be found in shops and around the world. Some offer greater advantages than others, offering players a larger attack arc or the ability to dash different directions, and it encourages experimentation. It does not dive into the depths found in the Castlevania series, but players will enjoy mixing and matching Charms to find a playstyle they like.
If anything, the world of Hollow Knight is vast – almost too much so. It can be easy to get lost – maps must be purchased for each area to even see where you’re going, certain items like the pricey (or obscure) Simple Key unlock new zones, and everything is spread out. Taking notes is an absolute must, and while it is not as obtuse as something like La Mulana, it can be fairly easy to get stuck without a guide, careful planning, or liberal use of the in-game pins.
However, those that take their sweet time will find a fair amount of content. Hidden upgrades, Charms, and even bosses can be found, giving the title some serious legs.
Rounding things off is a stellar presentation that manages to strike a balance between charming and melancholic. Fighting off waves of bugs is just the start – creatures like the Dung Defender, Mantis Lords, and Soul Master feature unique designs that are practically unseen in the genre. The story found in the game is drip-fed to the player through brief dialog exchanges and the exploration of the world, which manages to provide both mystery and worldbuilding.
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition shakes up the MetroidVania space with excellent worldbuilding and the challenge to match. Though the game does not hold your hand, those willing to face the world of Hallownest will find a game with a lot of “Soul.”
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