If all the brightly coloured indie pixels were beginning to give you a migraine, I’ve got the perfect antidote for you and your sunglasses-at-night-wearing sensibilities. The beautifully gloomy Hollow Knight, developed by Australian studio Team Cherry, raced past its Kickstarter goal back in December and even managed to get Wii U support from Nintendo. Plunging you into a surreal world of insects, this side-scrolling 2D adventure looks like an intriguing addition to the Metroidvania-style camp of games.
It would be too easy just to describe the Gothic visual style of the game as Burton-esque. Blues, greys and blacks are the order of day as Hollow Knight explores a wonderfully detailed and vibrant world full of wriggling worms and spiky legs. “The main visual theme for Hallownest, the world of Hollow Knight, is ‘dark elegance’”, explains lead animator and artist Ari Gibson. “We’re always striving towards that, though that’s not to say Hallownest is exempt from moments of the grotesque, or the horrific. It’s a world of bugs after all.”
Hallownest is enormous and to gradually uncover its secrets you must speak to its residents and steer precisely through fiendish platforming and enemy battles. “One thing we’ve aimed for from the start is giving the Hollow Knight extremely tight, fluid controls that allow the player complete control as they leap and strike and bounce around,” says coder and designer William Pellen. “The Hollow Knight is super-nimble, he doesn’t have any inertia, and there’s very few instances where the player doesn’t have total control over him. We’ll be giving people a healthy challenge but we want you to always feel that any mistakes you made could have been avoided!”
Citing Zelda II as a strong influence, Team Cherry is aiming for an ultra-rich universe with a grand sense of adventure. “There’s a large amount of freedom in the paths you take, though it’s not completely open,” explains Gibson. “Certain items, once found, will open new paths to more challenging areas of the world. The freedom in the way you approach the game also allows players to sort of adjust the difficulty for themselves, too. If an optional boss is giving you grief, you can grit your teeth and keep fighting, or go explore the world, become more powerful and then come back and stomp the poor doofus with your amazing new abilities.” We’ll save the bug spray as a last resort then.