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This Hollow Knight clone is causing an uproar

It goes without saying that Hollow Knight carved out its own place in the gaming community. The way Team Cherry nailed that classic metroidvania feel in an aesthetic wholly unique to itself? Excellent. Well, that aesthetic was unique to Hollow Knight, until a little known game called Gleamlight debuted during the Nintendo Indie World Showcase on Dec. 10.

Gleamlight lets you play as a red-robed character who wears a hat with a feather in their cap. You run through dark caverns and fight all sorts of monsters using some type of blade, all while you jump from platform to platform in this 2D sidescrolling adventure. It looks like a fun title. It also looks a lot like Hollow Knight. We aren't the only ones who noticed, judging by the YouTube comments on the reveal trailer.

Gleamlight comes to us from developer DICO and publisher D3Publisher, and it's set for an early 2020 release date on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam. Unfortunately, it will likely have a rough road to release, considering all uproar it caused shortly after its reveal.

DICO denies Gleamlight is a clone

After accusations started flying around the internet, things weren't looking good for Gleamlight. To set the record straight, Polygon reached out to D3Publisher to ask how the developers feel about the comparisons, or if they were even aware that Hollow Knight existed in the first place. Their response was one of denial.

"'Gleamlight' is still in development and it's not final at this moment. The dev team is aware of 'Hollow Knight' but the game has nothing to do with that title," a D3Publisher representative told Polygon.

Of course, this implies that the aesthetic we saw in the Gleamlight trailer could vastly change before its release, but we can't help but be skeptical. Changing the artistic direction of an entire game doesn't normally happen after the studio drops a trailer. Those sweeping changes require a lot of time and work, and if DICO did that, it could potentially mean a delay for that early 2020 release date. Just look at what the Sonic the Hedgehog movie director did after the first trailer dropped, which featured a CGI nightmare that still haunts our dreams.

What exactly were the accusations?

You don't have to look much further than Twitter and YouTube to see these "clone" accusations. The replies to Nintendo's tweet don't exactly portray Gleamlight in a pretty light. Even worse, the game's reveal trailer — which has overwhelmingly more dislikes than likes — is littered with inflammatory comments. "Shallow Knight is what I'll be calling this until I'm convinced otherwise," wrote user Noxide. "Someone's so desperate for Silksong that they made their own," said NotThePinkKirby.

For context, Silksong is an upcoming game in the Hollow Knight franchise, and is something many fans are looking forward to. These comments are pretty snide, but within them lies a couple nuggets of truth that we can't help but notice. Both feature a 2D art style that screams hand-drawn, and the dark edges of the screen feels nearly identical. The way Gleamlight's protagonist jumps and swings their blade also feels oddly reminiscent of Hollow Knight.

Just compare it to Team Cherry's launch trailer from 2017. Even the lack of user interface — which DICO prides itself on — feels inspired by Hollow Knight.

Did DICO rip off Hollow Knight?

At the end of the day, it's impossible for us to say whether or not DICO set out to make a Hollow Knight clone. Unless the studio admits to it, all we can do is look at the evidence and judge for ourselves. Nonetheless, even if the developers didn't mean for Gleamlight to look like Hollow Knight, the die is cast. First impressions make or break games, especially in the harsh court of public opinion.

Look at Genshin Impact as a parallel example. This Chinese-developed game seems to take a lot of cues from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and gamers definitely noticed it. Many didn't take kindly to it, writing it off as nothing more than a ripoff. The more we learn about Genshin Impact, however, the more we realize that there are small bits that help it stand out.

The enemy designs in Gleamlight could serve that same purpose, as they're different from the ones in Hollow Knight. We also haven't seen all that Gleamlight has to offer; if the adventure takes us to varied locales, there could be hope yet for this game. Unfortunately, it's going to be a rough uphill battle for DICO, as many have made up their minds already.