Gaming Nomad Vs. Shovel Knight
Megaman, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros, and Legend of Zelda: these were legends of the NES era. Wouldn’t it have been cool to see a game that combined all of the best elements of those classic games into one? That has remained a dream of all the kids of the 80’s and 90’s… until now! Behold, Shovel Knight is here to prove that indie game studios can put out games just as good, if not better, than many of the major game companies out there today. What makes Shovel Knight so great? Well, let’s take a closer look.
STORY & GAMEPLAY
In a land filled with adventure, the most well known knights were Shovel Knight and his beloved Shield Knight. The two fought many battles together and found many riches, until one day they entered the accursed Tower of Fate and Shield Knight met her end. Grief stricken, Shovel Knight retired from his knightly ways to live a simple and quite life. Years later, the evil Enchantress and her army of knights, former comrades of Shovel Knight, have taken control of the valley and it is up to Shovel Knight to rise again and save the kingdom from doom.
The story of Shovel Knight is pretty simple, like all the iconic games of the 8-bit days. Unlike a lot of NES games, story isn’t completely ignored for the sake of gameplay. The gameplay is front and center but there are lots of little bits to immerse you in the game’s narrative.
The world of Shovel Knight reminds me of Adventure Time, with strange creatures and epic journeys.
The dialogue is very well written and often quite funny. Shovel Knight is an interesting character, along with all the other NPCs and rival knights throughout the game. An average playthrough clocks in at around 6 hours, but it will take longer if you try to find all the items, secrets, and replay it in with the “New Game +” option.
Shovel Knight borrows from the classics. The level designs, music, and bosses have a Megaman feel. There are usable items like in Castlevania. You can use your shovel in the same way as the pogo stick in Duck Tales, travel around an overworld like in Mario 3, and visit towns like in Zelda. Plenty of little nods to other classic platforming games await you. You’ll also be surprised how effective a shovel is as a weapon.
If you’re a veteran of 2-D platformers, you’ll be able to pick up Shovel Knight and play it with no problem.
The controls are very tight, responsive, and work perfectly with the levels you will be traversing. The levels are creative, with their own unique gimmicks and secrets to find. The boss fights are awesome with each boss using a creative array of attack patterns. The villages provide new items to buy, side quests, colorful characters to talk to, and other little Easter eggs. The gems you find throughout the game aren’t just currency, it’s also your life. Every time Shovel Knight dies you lose half your loot, but you can reclaim it if you make it back to where you died.
Shovel Knight’s difficulty also embodies an old-school mentality. However, unlike other indie games made in a retro style, it’s not hard just for the sake of being hard.
The only real downside for some might be the game’s challenge level. Like everything else in the game, it embodies that classic NES spirit which includes that old Nintendo difficulty. However, unlike other indie games made in a retro style, it’s not hard just for the sake of being hard. The majority of the times I died it was usually because of my own carelessness. That said, one little thing really annoyed me: you always bounce back when an enemy hits you and, a lot like in the old Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden games, I always seemed to get knocked into a nearby hole. While it’s not as bad as in those games, the majority of my deaths seemed to come from dying this way. Most retro gamers love this challenge, myself included, but more casual gamers might find this just too frustrating. I admit I did feel the frustration factor and found myself yelling some nasty words each time I died, but it’s that frustration that drove me to want to win. It’s super triumphant to beat a hard level after several deaths.
The absolute triumph you feel when finally beating a difficult level lives on in Shovel Knight.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
Shovel Knight has some of the most beautiful and well animated 8-bit graphics I’ve ever seen. I loved the boss animations, especially Specter Knight, and there is not a single bit of slowdown. The sound effects are on par with the usual noises you’d hear from an 8-bit game but it’s the music that steals the show. The Shovel Knight theme and level themes are really catchy. You can even find the songs throughout the game and return them to a character called the Bard (who is basically the personification of the game’s composer) and listen to the game’s music.
Shovel Knight is one of the best platformers I’ve played in years. It’s funny to think that a game like Shovel Knight, in all its retro glory, is rivaling some of the big triple A-titles that have been released this year. It shows what an independent studio and a kickstarter can really do. I really enjoyed this game and highly recommend it to all fans of retro style games. The difficulty isn’t for everyone, but Yacht Club Games really put out a classic here and knew their target audience. This game is some serious game of the year material here. Shovel Knight is available for $14.99 on 3DS, WiiU, and PC. Keep a look out for my next mid-summer review of Valkyria Chronicles.
Loved It / Enjoyed It / Played It / Didn’t Like It / Hated It
- Extremely fun and challenging gameplay
- Beautiful 8-bit graphics and music
- Excellent example of Indie games
- Difficulty might turn some away
- Falling back a bit frustrating at some parts
- Appeal might not be there for younger gamers