A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hollow Knight is a downloadable action role-playing game (RPG) that's designed to be extremely difficult, even for veteran gamers. Despite the reliance on combat and a player's frequent deaths, its old-school 16-bit presentation means combat is pretty mild; enemies just abruptly stop moving and disperse items for you to collect. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content to be found. The game does have some downloadable content, although it doesn't heavily promote it.
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What's it about?
HOLLOW KNIGHT takes place, at first, in the fading town of Dirtmouth and then delves into a sleeping, ancient, and ruined kingdom beneath it. Apparently, many are drawn below the surface, searching for riches, glory, or answers to old secrets. You'll explore twisting caverns, ancient cities, and deadly wastelands while also battling tainted creatures and befriending bizarre bugs. The path you take and what you choose to do is entirely up to you. Later in the game, you'll acquire an item called the Dream Nail, which enables you to see the dreams of other characters and gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your quest, the lost kingdom, and how others see you. Similarly, there are multiple branching paths and a number of different endings that you earn based on your actions.
Is it any good?
There's a ton to love, enjoy, and discover in this engaging and at times frustrating downloadable action game. Like many other recent titles, Hollow Knight is intended as a bit of an homage to classic titles that padded much of their shelf life by requiring a level of skill you wouldn't be close to having out of the gate. It boasts a colossal in-game world that will likely take most players about 30 hours to fully discover, though because of the wanderlust it encourages, you're in for a lot of going in circles and being confused for a while. In fact, most areas of the map are accessible early on, though you won't be able to reach or even be aware of them until acquiring items and abilities further along the journey. The weapons and skills aren't anything all that new (a double-jump, shooting projectiles, etc.), though the difficulty in amassing them is considerable. This comes both in the form of boss fights that take a fair amount of practice to win, and occasionally some control issues (you'll often dive directly into pits you meant to leap across). As in the Dark Souls series, once you're killed, you can potentially lose all the in-game currency you've been holding on to unless you can forge a path back to where you were defeated and vanquish an evil spirit guarding your grave.
On top of the infrequent control issues, there are two other key areas that make this a recommendation with an asterisk. The game's huge world is exacerbated by the less than useful mapping system. Because the world continues to branch off, getting even larger, seeing where you are doesn't prevent you from getting lost. Additionally, the world has a tendency to be so bleak and dark that it can be hard to keep pressing on. It can also make you feel lost -- even when you're somewhere you've been before. With little that helps differentiate one space from another, there can be a dullness that sets in where instead there should be excitement over discovering a new area. Nevertheless, if you have an itch for a challenge that will ask a lot of you and give you ample opportunity to prove your skill, Hollow Knight is a worthy contender. Especially since the game is going to be continually amended via a series of three expansion packs, offering new areas, new bosses, and new challenges.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about putting healthy limits on screen time. Hollow Knight, with its sprawling, labyrinthine, deeply interconnected world, could tempt players to devote hours at a time, so how can you ensure you don't get carried away with your gaming sessions?
Discuss insects and "lesser" forms of life. Why are humans so focused on the human race? What sort of schooling would you need to better understand the societies and inner workings of other life-forms, including insects?
- Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows
- Price: $14.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Team Cherry
- Release date: February 24, 2017
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Bugs, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.