Shovel Knight (PC, 3DS, Wii U, Mac, Linux, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, and select digging implements everywhere)

 

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In a world of knights, kings, ancient magicks, hordes of treasure, and 16 bits there was an inseparable and unbeatable duo of knights, Shovel Knight and Shield Knight. Their adventures took them far and wide to the prestigious and dangerous Tower of Fate. A mysterious amulet wrought a dark spell around Shield Knight. As Shovel Knight came to Shield Knight was gone and the Tower was sealed. With a burden of shame too great for him — and the tower locked in any event — Shovel Knight went into exile. Some time later news reached him that the kingdom was dominated by the brutal Order of No Quarter lead by a bewitching Enchantress. The Tower of Fate has been unsealed and Shovel Knight vowed to figure what happened to his dear friend, no matter how many adversaries crossed his spade.

History

Shovel Knight is the inaugural title of Yacht Club Games, a collection of Way Forward Technologies employees who split from the company to go all in on this game. They started a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the project and it was backed three times over again. It was delayed for almost a year before its final release and it still has unimplimented features. There are three additional campaigns planned, with one released and two more on the way, and a battle mode in the works. All of these additional features will be free when they’re finished, I should note.

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Shovel Knight draws a lot of inspiration on games from the past, Megaman especially.

Shovel Knight was planned for release in September 2013 but was actually released on June 26th, 2014. It’s competition was 1001 Spikes ( PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, 3DS, WiiU, Goddam everything), Valiant Hearts: The Great War( PC, Xbox One, XBLA, PSN, PS4), and Oddworld New N’ Tasty (PS4).

Experiences

Shovel Knight is like a lost and hidden gem of an experience. I bought it, beat it,  beat it again, and then bought the soundtrack. This was one of those deep binges. I completed the whole thing in three days, I just couldn’t get enough. I cannot think of another 2-D platformer in which I was more emotionally invested in the story. I wanted so dearly to see what had become of Shield Knight, what united the Order, and what happened in the Tower of Fate.

Gameplay

The Kingdom serves as the overworld map for the game and it’s a akin to Super Mario Bros 3 in many ways. Shovel Knight travels across it to different towns filled with helpful NPCs and upgrades, treasure troves filled with sweet loot, and enemy strongholds filled with baddies and a Knight of the Order –oh yeah, they all contain fun as well.

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Complete with ominous clouds to prevent you from seeing further than you’ve unlocked.

Shovel Knight’s control scheme is shockingly simple. He can jump, strike with his shovel, and bounce on enemies — different enemies offer varying levels of bounce. For such a little guy he can dish out and take shocking amounts of punishment — and he’s agile to boot. Don’t be too afraid of dying though. The only thing you lose is treasure and there’s always more of that to be had.

The shovel is both a weapon and a tool in the hands of a capable Shovel Knight. As such he can dig through earth and enemy alike. Secret treasures, relics, and music sheets lay hidden everywhere so keep your eyes peeled and give your shovel a swing at any suspicious piles of dirt of background.

The Gush

SHOVEL KNIGHT IS SHORT! I mean literally, he’s a short character, as in not tall. I can’t rightly say why but I really like that. The last character I remember playing who had difficult time reaching the highest kitchen shelf was Lil’ Mac from Punch Out. That’s some serious under-representation of shorter characters.

The music in this game takes the limitations of 16 bit sound and makes them shine. Jake Kaufman truly outdid himself with this memorable and bouncy soundtrack. It perfectly builds mood and atmosphere along with the beautiful art direction

The difficulty curve here is incredibly smooth and well calibrated. This game will challenge you, it will be tough but there’s never a situation or enemy that is unfair. Everything has a tactic or ability you can use to counter them, you’ve just gotta figure out what they are.

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Except for these Green Fan jerks. They’re LITERALLY impossible to figure out.

The story is scarce but it provides a skeleton of sorts. The player-base can brew their theories but there isn’t a lot of definite proof/ are not a lot of outright answers. I mean this all in a good way though. We’ll imagine a story that suits

Each of the relics you can find provide a powerful and interesting new ability for our digging implement related hero. They acentuate his strengths or cover up his weaknesses and in any event they provide a playground of design.

Every so often random minibosses will appear on the overworld. Should you cross their paths then there will be a rumble. Each of these opponents provides a quick but challenging boss fight — and a little treasure to sweeten the deal. Many of these were also created by Kickstarter backers who fronted a lot of money for the project.

The Kvetch

When Shovel Knight gets hit he gets knocked back just a bit. This will lead to many deaths due to pits or spikes. But the thing that frustrates me about it is that Shovel Knight gets knocked back relative to what direction he is looking instead of which direction he was struck from. It’s unexpected to bump right when Shovel Knight gets hit with a projectile that was coming from the same direction simply because he’s walking away from it.

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Take damage in a section like this is a near death sentence! Also, sweet flame rod.

Trying not to spoil things but Shield Knight is dangerously close to being a damsel in distress when that’s definitely not in her character. A few small tweaks and I think this game would be a little more woman friendly.

This one is really small but I wish there was a quicker way to access Shovel Knight’s relics. I can scroll through them with A and S but enemies are still moving during that time and it’s extremely stressful. The alternative is pausing and opening the relic menu and selecting what you need. It’s just a little too slow for my tastes.

The Verdict

Shovel Knight retails on Steam for $15 and I would say that pricing is perfect. If you were itching for an old-school platformer or you wanted to understand what your dad’s been railing on about all this time then Shovel Knight is a great place to start. Oh yeah, I did mention something about an expansion pack right? Well…

Next Week: Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

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4 thoughts on “Shovel Knight (PC, 3DS, Wii U, Mac, Linux, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, and select digging implements everywhere)

  1. Pingback: Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (For Everything Shovel Knight is for. Seriously, that’s a long list.) | Rose Tinted Reset

  2. Red Metal

    I tend to gravitate towards indie games such as Shovel Knight, as opposed to the super artsy ones, because it’s interesting seeing modern spins on classic video game design. Indeed, what I like about the story is that it’s simple enough that it could have been in an NES game, yet it’s amazingly forward-looking – especially in regard to the overarching goal as you alluded to. It’s one of my favorite indie games along with Undertale and Papers, Please.

    Reply
    1. draxxkraven Post author

      What sort of Indie game would you view as artsy? Something like Gone Home or The Beginner’s Guide?

      When it comes to modern games I often ask myself simply ‘why’? Why should I spend 60 dollars on a game and 300 on the console when I can get Fallout 2 for 10 on Gog and it’s just fine. Based on the technology of the age I bet someone could get Fallout 2 running on a sophisticated microwave console so I can definitely get it running on my bucket of bolts rig.

      When it comes to the NES and the simple graphics and stuff like that we never got to see how far those things could be pushed. Video game design was in its infant stages. When I look back at some of the games on Until We Win or something it almost seems like the designers had some good ideas but didn’t really know what they were doing and how could they? They were just making it up until it worked.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment.

      Reply
      1. Red Metal

        Those are indeed the types of games I have in mind when I think of artsy games. Admittedly, I haven’t played the games you mentioned, but I did play The Stanley Parable, which was created by the same person who made The Beginner’s Guide. I have to say that playing that game reinforced why I tend not to go for the overtly artsy indie titles. It feels like they were made to try to prove to outsiders that video games are art and to generate as much praise as possible from critics without creating good gameplay. In theory, it’s a noble ambition, but in practice, I’ve discovered that it’s mentality that stifles creativity more often than it does to promote it. It’s kind of like how the Academy often chooses movies which are quickly forgotten over ones that end up being timeless classics.

        It’s important when making games to think outside of the box, but it’s also crucial to make the experience fun or enjoyable.

        I would say that as a whole, developers have adopted more sensible design choices. Most challenges in games these days tend to be more fair and not because you’re wrestling with the controls or, in some cases, subpar level layouts.

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