Shovel Knight (Available on 3DS, PC, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Release Date: June 26th, 2014
Parent Talk: Shovel Knight has been rated E for everyone by the ESRB, and features mild fantasy violence. This has all the makings of a fantastic NES classic, meaning even your youngest children can play the game without fear of any damaging material. It’s hardcore platforming action at its best.
Plays Like: Imagine if Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. 3, and DuckTales had an NES offspring, and you’ve got yourself Shovel Knight. It borrows gameplay elements from all three of those classic titles, and yet still brings enough new and fresh ideas to the tables to keep things very, very interesting. It’s a must-play game.
Review Basis: I finished the PC version of the game in one sitting. Afterwards, I grabbed some food, and went right back to playing. I haven’t started the New Game+ mode yet, but oh yes, I sure will.
Here’s an interesting story for you. I told Steven, one of the other COE nutcases, about a new game I just discovered that was absolutely incredible, Astebreed
for those that don’t know. He took a guess and said Shovel Knight
, to which I replied ‘WTF is Shovel Knight
’. After some swearing, belittling, and other obscenities, he said it was a new action platforming game that would be right up my alley. A quick Google search later and I realized what Shovel Knight
was. It was a Kickstarter game that got funded last April, I vividly recall their pitch video. Why I never gave them money is beyond me, because it turns out not only is this my style of game, but it too has jumped into my top five games of 2014 thus far. If you enjoy the retro scene, or are just looking for a kick ass game, go download Shovel Knight
Everything old is new again. Let’s face facts, the retro scene is on fire right now. Not only are countless indie developers releasing games that reminisce about the classic NES days, but the original carts themselves have exploded in value over the past five years. Just take a quick look at eBay and you’ll see that even SNES games are crazy expensive. I mean $50 for a loose cart of Super Metroid?!?! For real!
Enter Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight was developed by a start-up indie developer called Yacht Club Games, and after this masterpiece they’re not going to be an unknown company for long. Shovel Knight successfully combined level design and boss elements from Mega Man, the awesome pogo gameplay from DuckTales, the overworld from Super Mario Bros. 3, and towns from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It’s not just a combination of these elements that make Shovel Knight so great, it’s the fact that Yacht Club Games simply took inspiration from these classics, but developed their own unique style, flair, and game world. Everything about Shovel Knight screams classic NES, yet at the same time it feels fresh enough to stand on its own, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful experience.
+ A platformer with a story. The setup is simple, Shovel Knight and his partner in crime Shield Knight are separated, an evil Enchantress has restored a powerful tower, and there are eight robot masters…I mean eight henchmen that must be stopped in order to restore peace to the land.
+ Each of the eight Order of No Quarter feels like they were ripped directly from a Mega Man game. You have your underwater Treasure Knight, there’s the ice world boss Polar Knight, and more. I loved the throwback to Mega Man, and the fact that each boss and stage is so completely unique compared to the last only makes things that much better.
+ Boss fights aren’t scripted, which means while a certain boss might have access to five moves, how they attack you changes every time you fight them. I really enjoyed that as simple pattern recognition isn’t enough.
+ I already mentioned the overworld map system is taken directly from Super Mario Bros. 3, but I love how they’ve adapted it to fit this unique world. While Shovel Knight moves from one area to the next, occasionally minor boss fights will pop up, there will be gem areas that you can only traverse with a special power-up, and much, much more.
+ Core gameplay is simple, but completely spot-on. You can jump, attack, or perform a downward thrust with your shovel. Along the way you can gain access to secondary attacks which use little jars of magic. Think of it like the heart system from the vintage Castlevania games. You can eventually find relics that allow you to punch through rocks, shoot flames, and more.
+ Weapon and armor upgrades are more than just for show. You can purchase upgrades that allow you to activate a powerful swipe attack after two successful bounces off enemies or blocks, you can get a charge shot like Mega Man would use, or even a beam attack like the vintage Zelda games.
+ You earn gems and diamonds from digging up treasure, defeating enemies, and virtually everything else you can imagine. The more loot you have, the more you can upgrade your health, your magic container number, and more. Die though, and a portion of your loot appears in three flying bags. Taken from Diablo, the only way to get your stolen loot is to head back to where you died and collect it yourself.
+ New Game+ If you’re looking for a challenge, this is certainly the mode you’re going to want to play through. Finish the game, which take under six hours unless you want to explore everything. Once done you can restart the game with all your previous equipment, but prepare to get your ass handed to you.
+ Level design, character design, and the overall graphics are fantastic. The game looks as if it were ripped from the NES, and given the HD treatment. Not since Mega Man 9 and 10 has a retro game looked so good. The sound design is exactly the same, it sounds perfectly unique featuring catchy tunes, and great sound effects. Both come together perfectly to establish Shovel Knight as Yacht Club Games’ mascot moving forward. They’re going to have their work cut out for them to top this.
+/- Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about Shovel Knight is that some of its replay factor just isn’t there. The levels are 100% linear, even though they do feature some hidden paths here and there. The design isn’t enough to warrant multiple play-throughs. Once you’ve completed the main story and New Game+ I’m not convinced you’ll want to return every year, but proof is in the pudding so only time will tell. All the NES classics that this game borrows gameplay elements from could easily be replayed over and over, and over again and if Shovel Knight is able to do the same then it will have earned its place in gaming history.
Shovel Knight is the best Kickstarter released game I’ve played to date. Yes, I even enjoyed it more than Broken Age. There’s just something about these throwback games I love. Shovel Knight takes the best of what made the original classics so much fun to play, and spices things up just enough to make it feel unique. If you own a Wii U, 3DS, or a somewhat capable PC, I wholeheartedly recommend you purchase Shovel Knight. It’s retro gaming at its absolute finest.
Final Score: 9.5/10