Yes, more contrast will be very helpful. I'm not sure what would work well, as art is not my specialty.
I haven't played Hollow Knights, so I can't draw a comparison. Might be a good thing I don't know. As mentioned before, I'm not prepared to deal with it. It may be the case that other people are. Keep playtesting and find out.
"Did you like anything?" Hard to say, would have to replay it. I thought the character walking anim was cute, but I'm not sure it fit the style. It's my type of game. I like metroidvanias and the souls games, but there was a lot I had a problem with as a player. Hopefully I've conveyed that in my description before. I think I liked the ambient sound. But I played too little of it to properly evaluate more of your design.
Based on what you said about the combat aspect, I think you bit more than you can chew at this time. As you can see from my previous description, I had problems with multiple areas of your design, chief among them combat and level design. Not just artistically, but placement of things as well. If we analyse your intended design you have the following mechanics in it:
There may be more, but for this discussion these 4 are sufficient. Metroidvania games, in order to be good to play, must excel at all these simultaneously. For a jam game, it's like trying to make 4 games at the same time, all pretty decent, all in a short amount of time. If we cast our minds at your game, quickly:
1. Your locomotion has problems with the jumping, which is a pretty important interaction. If you'd removed one of the other aspects, you could have focused on this more. You also seem to be having difficulties with the animation system, as animations don't seem to interrupt one another or flow into one another elegantly (which reflects on combat).
2. Your combat, at the beginning, has many design issues. Combat is an umbrella term for all aggressive interaction. It includes dealing and taking damage, animation, physics effects, balancing... A whole new world of pain. :) Again, the more effort you put into any category, the least you put into the other.
Anyway, I think you understand what I'm saying. Point is, if you enjoyed yourself making what you did, you feel like you've progressed, and you understand the criticism received and you use it as inspiration for future development, you're doing the right thing.
I'll leave you with one important thing that has served me well, both in AAA and indie (though my indie career so far has been a string of failures, so put as much stock in these words as you are willing):
1. All feedback is better than no feedback.
2. All destructive feedback is better than false feedback.
3. Some constructive feedback is better than destructive feedback, but it's tainted by biases and preferences.
4. Destructive feedback is the most realistic one, as it's the kind of feedback players have when the dev is not around. It is up to the dev to understand what that destructive feedback means. How you do that, is up to you.
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