Hollow Knight and Angel’s Egg

When it comes to video games, my favorite form of gameplay is exploration. I love taking in the moods and aesthetics of a well-made game world by freely wandering through it. Hollow Knight is a perfect example of such a game world, which is why it remains one of my all-time favorite games.

The game has solid gameplay and a lot of great boss fights, but ironically, I consider the real meat and potatoes of the experience to be its atomosphere. Through exhaustive artistry and an excellent soundtrack, the game articulates a diverse palette of lonely and mysterious moods throughout its abandoned setting. In fact, each game area could be thought of as a separate meditation on solitude.

Screenshot from Hollow Knight: the knight sitting on a bench

I heard that one of the creators of the game cited the film Angel’s Egg as an influence, so I checked it out. It was unlike anything else I had seen. The film is extremely slow-paced, regularly lingering on a long shots, occasionally for minutes at a time, just letting the soundtrack play out. The plot is fairly minimal, and what plot there is is challenging to follow.

Screenshot from Angel’s Egg: the main characters walk past a hall lined with jars

Like Hollow Knight, the primary content of Angel’s Egg is its atomosphere. Even when you don’t follow what exactly is happening on the screen in front of you, the film consistently resonates on an emotional level. Every shot in the film is suffused with its palette of loneliness, alienation, & desperation. In the same way that music can communicate certain feelings more directly than verbal descriptions, it seems like Angel’s Egg is able to touch on its themes more directly & deeply than a concrete plot & presentation could.

Watching Angel’s Egg, it was easy to see the influence it had on Hollow Knight. Some of the influence is directly in the visual language the game borrows from the film: the often monochrome environment, the fossilized walls, the constant rain. But it seems like the game also takes inspiration in valuing aesthetics as content in its own right. Rather than fussing over a dichotomy of style vs. substance, both works propose that substance can in fact be achieved through style.

Have you played Hollow Knight? Have you watched Angel’s Egg? How do you think the latter influenced the former? Do you know of another example where an obscure film influenced a video game’s aesthetics? Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​ctrl-c.club.