'Hollow Knight' is the best video game I've played in years — and it's a total steal right now at just $10

Team Cherry

Last week, upon reading too many glowing reviews and recommendations, I decided to drop $US15 in the Nintendo eShop to buy “Hollow Knight” for the Nintendo Switch.

I have zero regrets about that decision. “Hollow Knight” is one of the best games I’ve played in years, and the more I play it, the less I can believe it was built by only three people.

If you’re on the fence, consider this: “Hollow Knight” just got its final piece of free downloadable content this week – a new expansion called “Godmaster” – and to celebrate the release, its developers at Team Cherry have decided to put the game on sale for 34% off, which means you’re only paying about $US9.90 for this incredible game.

Here’s why “Hollow Knight” is worth your time and money:

First, availability:

You can buy this game on the Nintendo Switch, which I highly recommend since you can play the game both in your living room and on the go. It’s also available on PC, and coming soon to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in spring 2019.

A perfect hybrid of two incredible games.

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“Hollow Knight” is like “Dark Souls” meets “Metroid.”

But what does that mean, if you’ve never played either of those games?

“Dark Souls” is all about exploring massive, interconnected areas filled with secrets and difficult enemies. Any enemy can be deadly, and it’s important to learn its patterns to survive. If you die, the in-game currency you’ve collected drops where you fell. And if you die again before getting back to that spot, you’ll lose the currency you collected.

“Metroid” is known for 2D sidescrolling action and similarly large interconnected areas, but when you progress in the game – by beating a boss, or finding a new area – you’ll get new powers and tools that let you explore areas that were previously unreachable.

“Hollow Knight” takes all of these elements and smashes them into a single addictive experience.

The art design is gorgeous.

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“Hollow Knight” is a bug-themed game. Your character looks like a beetle, and all of the allies and enemies you meet along the way are also insects. The entire map is based on exploring a massive maze underneath the earth.

But it’s not just dirt everywhere you go. You’ll find areas with lush greenery, toxic fog, and incredible gothic architecture. “Hollow Knight” is a visual treat.

The music makes the game come alive.

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Music can make or break a video game. In the case of “Hollow Knight,” the music only complements the atmosphere: You’ll hear a full orchestral score that matches the mood of each area – bright flutes and cheery melodies in Greenpath, but creepy organ music inside Crystal Peak’s hidden mansion. The music is varied but excellent no matter where you go.

The platforming and combat is challenging but fair.

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In “Hollow Knight,” you start the game with five skulls – that’s your health. If you get hit by an enemy, or fall into boiling water or spikes, you’ll lose at least one skull. You regain your health by using Focus, which you accumulate when you hit enemies.

So while it’s easy to heal yourself, everything in the game can kill you. So if you’re not careful where you walk or jump, you might lose a lot of health. But like “Dark Souls,” dangerous areas and enemies never feel unfair; you die because you messed up. You didn’t look before you leapt, or maybe you didn’t study an enemy’s moves well enough. Surviving the next time around means learning from your mistakes, which makes progress feel all the more rewarding.

Every area is interconnected, and filled with secret passageways and hidden items.

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The best video games reward exploration, and “Hollow Knight” does this in spades. Without spoiling anything, there’s a hint near the beginning of the game that seems to tell you, “Hey, you can’t access me yet, but maybe come back when you have the right abilities or tools.” When I came across this juncture so early in the game, I didn’t think much of it. But several hours into my playtime, I acquired an ability that made me think of that first area, so I returned, and discovered an incredible secret.

“Hollow Knight” is filled with these moments. Sometimes, it’s finding a hidden connection from one area of the massive world to another. Other times, it’s solving a short puzzle that rewards you with a helpful item or charm. It’s great design because it makes you want to take your time exploring instead of just running to the next boss room, like you do in most video games.

You can collect different charms on your travels, which give you unique powers and abilities.

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As you explore, you’ll encounter shiny objects on the ground. Sometimes, those objects are charms, which are basically abilities that you can pick and choose, and mix and match.

When you start the game, you’ll only have a certain number of slots for your charms. But soon, you’ll start collecting more charms than you’ll know what to do with. At that point, it’s all about picking the right abilities to complement your playstyle.

I picked a series of charms that extend the range of my attacks, give me more Focus when I hit enemies (so I can heal more often), and automatically gather coins that are dropped when enemies die – even if those coins fall into spikes or pits. But there are really no wrong choices.

Taken as a whole, “Hollow Knight” is an unforgettable experience that’s hard to put down.

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“Hollow Knight” feels like a complete game. It has a little bit of everything: Action, adventure, and a mysterious story that’s only revealed several hours into the game.

The developers at Team Cherry were able to achieve balance throughout the game. Some parts feel funny and light, while other moments are dark and scary. Some areas are difficult to navigate, while others are more of a breeze to traipse through. But the underlying drive is a feeling of progress: The more you explore and fight, the stronger your character gets – and you, as the player, also gain more confidence in wielding your abilities.

“Hollow Knight” does a great job of making you feel like a badass. But then, just as you’re feeling like nothing can stop you, you’ll hit a wall – usually in the form of a new area, a new enemy type, or a new boss. Sometimes, it can take a little bit of time to proceed further. But understanding the mechanics lends itself to a feeling of mastery, which is satisfying when you’re able to waltz through older areas you choose to revisit.

If you own a Nintendo Switch, or a Mac or PC, you owe it to yourself to try “Hollow Knight.” It will arrive on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in spring 2019.

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