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Hollow Knight (Switch) Review

by Adam Abou-Nasr - June 22, 2018, 11:48 am EDT
Total comments: 6


“Focus your soul and you shall achieve feats of which others can only dream.”

Hollow Knight falls from a cliff. The only bug left in the village at the base warns against entering the well and the sprawling caverns below.

“Creatures turn mad and are robbed of their memories,” he says.

Hollow Knight still descends.

The world of Hollownest below first felt like a whimsical handful of rooms but seemingly never stopped expanding, with each area increasingly unsettling and late ones downright disturbing. I got lost immediately. Hollow Knight’s slow walking speed and basic jump begged me to find movement upgrades. After about an hour, I had a partial map and found a boss. The boss was so incredibly difficult that I was immediately filled with regret over having asked to review this game. I died so many times I thought he was a gate requiring a new item to pass, but I kept trying. When I finally beat him, I didn’t find a way forward. No, he was guarding a collectible. I’d see him again soon as a normal enemy. Oh boy.

Finding anything easy or friendly in Hollow Knight’s world proved difficult. Most of the adorable hand-drawn bugs shone an orange gleam from their eyes, a telltale sign of the infection spreading throughout the Hollownest. The heart-pounding tension between checkpoints kept me on my toes. Even basic enemies posed a threat while platforming, and repeating large sections between checkpoints and bosses demanded mastery. Falling in battle breaks the Hollow Knight in two, leaving its money and part of its magic meter behind. Dying on the repeat trip forfeits your hard-earned cash, an unthinkable option.

While at first the grueling distance between checkpoints and the painful punishment for perishing seemed unfair, it eventually clicked. I lived for the tension. I became hardcore. Hollow Knight is not about exploration, I discovered, but about persevering. With enough persistence, I uncovered equippable charms to compliment my playstyle; new moves and health upgrades to get me just a bit farther; and enough practice to overcome (almost) anything in my way.

Hollow Knight starts its journey with a jump, a basic swing of a nail sword, and a slow healing spell. Dashes, double jumps, nail maneuvers and attack spells hide everywhere, usually behind one of the almost three dozen unique bosses. Charms offer a huge variety of upgrades, but extra slots are hard to come by, so I often switched between an exploration build and a boss battle build. Some charms, like the ones that show your location on the map and gather money dropped by enemies, were so essential that removing them felt like trading a part of myself for a better chance at an upcoming battle.

Bosses require focus at that point between frustration and fun: The Zone. Getting into the zone after a few (dozen) failed boss fights may be the hardest part of Hollow Knight, but nothing can match the sense of accomplishment after clearing a particularly devastating battle. Each boss has its tells, and each move can be outmaneuvered. I declared small victories if I survived a bit longer than the try before or attacked twice in an opening in which I had previously landed just one. Some bosses did get to me, though: I have “so frustratingly hard that I cannot recommend this game” angrily scrawled in my notes, and the quest for the true ending remains locked behind a stupid, cheap, BS fight with a giant mantis whom I hate so, so much.

Fortunately, stepping away to fill in gaps in your map is the perfect way to unwind from difficult bosses. Hollownest is huge, and a stag-beetle subway system can zip Hollow Knight across the map in seconds. Tight platforming and an ever-expanding arsenal of abilities kept me finding new areas hidden behind tall walls or long gaps. Platforming challenges reminiscent of Mario’s red-coin sections acted as stand-out therapeutic sessions. The beautiful diversity of Hollownest’s areas kept things from getting as bland as the underground setting may imply.

Hollow Knight’s cryptic lore doled out in pieces leads me to believe I saved Hollownest in my ending, but an after-credits screen shows a 73% completion in 27 hours of play. I may have finished, but I’m far from done. I still have tons of upgrades, optional bosses, a true ending and a mantis to overcome. And I’m itching to jump back in.


  • Beautiful environments
  • Deep, hidden lore
  • Dozens of bosses
  • Huge underground labyrinth
  • Tight platforming and combat
  • Tons of upgrades
  • “So frustratingly hard that I cannot recommend this game” angrily scrawled in my notes



dfields90June 22, 2018

Preach it. Agree with everything in this review.

AdrockJune 23, 2018

Team Cherry announced they’re working on making a physical release happen soon so I’ll get in on Hollow Knight then. It wasn’t really on my radar before then, but acclaimed Metroidvania + physical release = purchase.

Evan_BJune 23, 2018

I'm in awe of how much I love this game.

KhushrenadaFebruary 14, 2022

I’ve finally gotten around to this game over three to four weeks. I’m getting close to beating it and wrapping up various loose ends here and there. It was this review that brought this game to my attention and helped “put it on the map” as something worth purchasing. Since it has been on my mind as a get close to the end, I’ve checked back on this review and there’s some things I’d love to know.

Which boss fight was “so frustratingly hard that I cannot recommend this game”?

I’m thinking the BS Mantis fight you mention is the Traitor Lord. I finally reached this boss yesterday evening and after the first couple tries I was like, yep, I see why you said what you did in the review? Were you able to overcome him and get the true ending?

Did you dig in much to the Quests or Godseeker DLC?

Would you still rate it a 10?  ;)

I'm glad you liked it, too! I don't actually think I remembered who was that frustrating when I looked back at my notes which is why I put it that way. Funnily enough that part is on the Hollow Knight Wikipedia page lol. When I came back to Hollow Knight I was so rusty I couldn't even navigate the first area anymore, so no, I have not gotten the full ending or done any DLC stuff, but I have seen all of mossbag's videos! I don't *really* love review scores, but I believe the review I wrote was for a 10/10 game and stand by my review

KhushrenadaFebruary 16, 2022

The review was so good they wanted it preserved on Wikipedia! It's the dramatic writing like:


“Creatures turn mad and are robbed of their memories,” he says.

Hollow Knight still descends.

How long did you step away from the game after the review? From your writing, it sounded like you were just going to keep going at it.

I was wondering if the boss that was so hard that you couldn't recommend the game was perhaps the Enraged Guardian which was the second phase of the Crystal Guardian. The first 10 or so times playing that was some very quick butt-whoopings with all the lasers coming down from the ceiling along with his jumping and laser shooting. There haven't been too many boss fights in which I was asking myself how is this going to be possible after a few tries but that was one of them. The Watcher Knights was another one that took some time.

I know most reviewers don't really like the whole review score aspect because that can often be the only thing most readers focus on. I was asking it more along the lines like movies in which after some years and time has passed, sometimes reviewers have a different opinion on a film and don't like something as much as they once did or like something more than they did at first. I was wondering if after writing the review (which was based on that moment and time and what you had been able to experience to that point) but then playing it more to see some of that other content if it had changed your thinking on it since. However, it seems you didn't get the opportunity to dig into it further afterwards so there's not really much to discuss there.

Personally, I found that after the first 5 - 20 some hours in the game as I really began wandering and exploring that I really got addicted to this game. Then it became and was a ten out of ten feeling and experience for me also despite encountering some of the punishing difficulty. I'm currently 35 hours in and am getting close to wrapping a lot of it up. I've got about 5 charms still to find. 3 imprisoned grubs left to get too. I've just got the final upgrade for my nail. I still need to get further into DeepNest to reach the last Dreamer but am currently about to enter a Bee Hive. I've done two out of the three Colosseum challenges. As I go through this late game portion, I find my love has cooled down a bit and that initial exploration thrill is kind of gone. Now I'd probably give the game like a 9, possibly a 9.5 still depending on what else I encounter with it. There are some negatives I feel about it that I notice a bit more than when everything was still so wild and fresh. It's a bit like Breath of the Wild where the early game when there was so much to explore while being underpowered felt different from the later game when you were strong and had seen most of the surprises.

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Game Profile

Hollow Knight Box Art

Genre Action

Worldwide Releases

na: Hollow Knight
Release Jun 12, 2018

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