Spoilers: Hollow Knight is a great game.
I didn't go into this game knowing anything about it other than it's basic genre, which I think was a really good thing. I have been hooked on Hollow Knight. After a little bit of backstory/tutorial you come upon a deserted old town with one (for now) lone inhabitant. He tells you that you are standing on the only remaining entrance to a vast underground city (?), so you must be here to dive in. The whole thing is very mysterious and gloomy and to be honest I haven't yet figured out the bigger picture here. I am definitely looking forward to discovering what happened to the civilization which used to inhabit the area.
The underground world of Hollow Knight is much larger than I was expecting. I thought three, maybe four areas to explore. I'm now at seven uncovered and here are more I haven't opened yet. It seems to be that there is something hidden in every corner. All the areas feel distinct from each other except where you begin to cross from one to the other, there is some thematic overlap. It's never that you go through an exit and suddenly everything is different. Also, you are not hand held about where to go. Once you start unlocking platforming abilities, lots of things open up at once and you have a lot of options. I kept screenshots of the maps so I could make notes about areas I want to come back to. There's really a lot to explore.
Everyone is HK is a bug, I think, or maybe in some cases an arachnid? Also, everyone is adorable, even the enemies? I don't know how else to put it. The aesthetic is grim, dark, mysterious, cute, bugs. I love it? My favorite NPC so far is Cloth, but I won't spoil anything about them. There is no English voice acting but there is a lot of spoken gibberish which gives everyone a unique personality. The map maker hums happily as he waits for you to find him and buy his maps. Meanwhile, his wife back in the town above sighs in exasperation as you buy all her goods, *again*.
There is a lot of platforming in HK but the controls are tight and easy to pick up. I will say however, Hollow Knight is very hard. I have been stuck more times than I would admit, but so far I have always been able to push through. Sometimes I've surprised myself with a bit of skillful platforming. If you know me, I always say how I am bad at video games, and it's mostly true and not just self-deprecating humor (I think my hand-eye coordination is not the greatest, and I can panic in a tight spot). But this game had me wondering. Maybe I can finally… get good?
Another layer of difficulty is that if you die, you lose your currency and have to navigate back to your shadow to recover it, while suffering a debuff. Much like Demon's Souls and it's successors. I have to wonder if "Hollow" in the title is also a nod to those games.
Anyway, the whole game is extremely polished, from the sound to the artwork, the environments, everything. It's really a piece of art. The only other indie game I felt this way about was Hades. Another fairly difficult and beautifully polished game.
PS - I said I was going to be more conscience but I really loved this game okay. This review was all over the place also. Look, I'm tired.
PPS - I didn't talk about combat. It's also very good, I am not great at boss fights but have been able to conquer them all so far. Some enemies give me a really hard time but nothing too frustrating. Your weapon is a needle.