- Action Platformer
- Developed and Published by Yacht Club Games
- Available on 3DS (via eShop), Wii U (via eShop), PC (via Steam, Good Old Games) [played]
- Released on 2014-06-26 (3DS, Wii U, PC)
I was never a big fan of the NES style of games. Back in the day, even though I liked a lot of NES games, I rarely look back with fondness at the difficulty, primitive graphics, and sometimes cryptic game mechanics. I know, I know, it’s sacrilegious for a gamer to say that, especially for someone like me whose first console was the NES. However, when a game like Shovel Knight is released, it reminds me what fans of the console are talking about. Shovel Knight is arguably the best retro title to be released in recent memory and is a fine example of why gameplay always outshines presentation.
The titular character Shovel Knight is on a quest to save the land from the evil Enchantress and her Order of No Quarter. The story of the game is typical but it’s told extremely well through cut scenes and text boxes and I’d rather not spoil anything. Many of the characters have distinct mannerisms to their way of speaking and the game succeeds in getting you invested in the characters and give most, if not all, of the characters distinct personalities.
Fans of the 8-bit style will love Shovel Knight, as it’s a celebration of that style. Everything from the pixel graphics to the catchy and energetic soundtrack that evokes Mega Man screams NES and the best games that system had to offer. The presentation will endear old school gamers to this game and it won’t take long until you find a favorite stage and song. I will say however that there are some modern improvements. The game is in HD, and the color palette is more varied than what was possible on the NES. Also, a game like this would definitely suffer from slowdown on the NES. Regardless, it still definitely evokes the NES style and highlights what was great about that presentational style.
Playing Shovel Knight, you’ll traverse across a map including towns, caves, laboratories, airships, and more as you defeat enemies and find hidden areas to collect gold for upgrades. Shovel Knight can whack enemies with his shovel or bounce off them with his pogo-like jumping attack. Later when you acquire them, you can use magic to attack and traverse large gaps and dangerous areas. If you die, instead of losing a life, you’ll drop some of your gold that you can recover if you reach the area where you died. To diversify the gameplay, there are optional boss fights, mini-levels and quests to go on. These will reward you with extra gold so you can obtain the upgrades in the store quicker.
A lot of elements of Shovel Knight come from NES classics, such as Super Mario Bros 3’s map, Mega Man’s level design, and Zelda II’s item system, as well as the obvious pogo attack from Ducktales. It all comes together so well for an experience that’s natural and easy to understand. You will find yourself searching for hidden areas to get more treasure, as well as pulling off awesome feats as you traverse pits and various enemies. It helps that the controls are extremely responsive and you always feel in full control of Shovel Knight. Side note: the PC version doesn’t support all controllers and I had to use an Xbox 360 controller, which plays fine but would probably feel better with a superior d-pad.
Something Shovel Knight does extremely well is give you a great sense of progression. While it’s a great feeling to upgrade your health and magic meter and purchase all of the armor and shovel upgrades, completing levels is the most gratifying. Most levels will present you with a new type of challenge in an easy context so you can learn what’s expected of you. As the levels progress, the challenge increases but at a fair pace so you never feel overwhelmed. The gold dropping is also a good system that both keeps the game from becoming frustrating and solves the problem of lives becoming outdated in a time where people can save their games. The game never fails to be challenging though and because the challenges are often well thought out and creative, simply completing a level and defeating the boss at the end is it’s own reward. You always feel good when you finish a level and never just glad it’s over.
Shovel Knight is an amazing game. The game is just the right length at 5 hours or so and every level is well designed and enjoyable. Playing the game feels so good and the feeling of achievement you get is gratifying in the best way. The game’s ending is really satisfying too. Shovel Knight is just fun. It’s one of the best titles to come from the Kickstarter scene and is a game every gamer should have in their collection.
Thanks for reading my review of Shovel Knight. What did you think of this game? Which platform are you playing it on? Leave me a comment down below and let me know. Peace and love, gamers and players!