2017’s been a great year for surprise hits. New franchises emerging and staking their claim on critical success. There was one title earlier this year though that arrived with very little fanfare, but left a huge impression. A game as gorgeous as it was enjoyable – providing a challenge while never being too frustrating. That game is Hollow Knight.

Despite the relatively small audience this masterfully crafted game has garnered, smaller still is the number of people who realize its true magnificence. When you first learn about Hollow Knight, you most certainly will either hear of its beautifully hand-drawn art style or the fact that it is a mixture of precise platforming and a solid metroidvania. While those qualities are appealing to most people, coupled with the fact many dev teams have tried this formula before and succeeded, they aren’t what elevate this indie title to pure excellence.

Hollownest and the entire universe in which our tiny Hollow Knight resides in is a place where bugs have established civilizations, infrastructure, and forms of government. This simple twist creates a magical effect where we feel familiar to the types of creatures that dwell in the world yet at the same time alienated as they are anthropomorphic in their mannerism and behavior. This brings about a strong sense of wonder during the exploration of the vastly diverse environments within the game because we all have a general idea of what the insect kingdom is like but we have no notion of how much it would change were they to have consciousness as we do. Team Cherry help us visualize such a thought experiment and to great effect..

You will be pleasantly surprised in every corner as you witness stags working as transporters between locations, snails acting as mysterious hermetic shamans, and spiders shunned from society for their aggressive and beastly nature. You will hear about honor, duty and pride as warriors take up nails and use them as weapons in melee combat while others might opt to take advantage of their biology and incorporate their body parts in their attacks.

Every single thing about this world is fantastic and evocative due to the meticulous way the developers have created the quests, interactions, and dialogues you can have with the unique cast of NPCs. The key to the wide range of emotions they can make you feel is the many small but intricate details the indie studio have tucked away for the inquisitive types of players to find. I have personally lost track of the amount of times the game astounded me with its extremely subtle clues which I had to put together to learn about its world and lore.

In closing I must admit that the game might start slow and can get overwhelming at times due to its lack of hand holding but isn’t that what everyone seems to complain about in today’s gaming industry? If you enjoy world building and an unforgettable experience, then Hollow Knight can provide like no other. Especially since it only costs 15 USD while providing 40 hours of content. You can’t get a better bang for your buck elsewhere.