For this time around, we’ve got another indie title that has hit it big. A 2D retro-styled action platforming game based around swinging a shovel, from Yacht Club Games, it’s Shovel Knight. Let’s go!
Our story starts with a tale of heroics, how the great Shovel Knight and Shield Knight roamed the land together, reveling in its spoils with their oversized and appropriate shovel and shield respectively. However, fate conspired against them, as their adventures ended at the Tower of Fate, a cursed amulet sealing Shield Knight inside. Alone and dejected, Shovel Knight swore off adventuring for life away from others. This gave rise to the Enchantress and her Order of No Quarter, for without heroes, who would protect the lands from evil? With the Tower unsealed, Shovel Knight once again heeds the call to adventure in Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope.
Right off the bat, Shovel Knight is a game that is heavily inspired by the retro games of the 80s and 90s. It’s 16-bit graphics and smooth animations would fit in with games like Mega Man X and Secret of Mana. The character designs are all unique and refreshing, as every boss has a unique style that gives an idea of what they’re about, as they should. Even the NPCs you can find are unique from other games, like frog people, horse people, a goat man, and even a giant apple-trout monarch. If you like pixel animation like I do, you’re in for a treat with Shovel Knight.
Shovel Knight boasts a large soundtrack, with a great variety of chiptune scores. From the tantalizing level tunes to the dramatic boss themes, Shovel Knight’s music is fantastic. But more than just for listening, Shovel Knight made a little game out of the soundtrack while adventuring. While playing Shovel Knight, you can find pieces of sheet music you can turn in for gold, making collecting them all not only a completionist goal, but also progression. It even has a sound test room to listen to all of the music, which isn’t something you see a lot of these days. You can listen to it here.
Now, onto the gameplay. As a 2D platformer you can run and jump, a shovel you can swing, and a downward stab with your shovel. If you are unsure at any point what to do, try swinging your shovel at it, that usually works. Beyond that, you can collect relics in the game, which allow you to perform special attacks, like shooting fireballs or throwing anchors. When it comes to actually traversing the levels, Shovel Knight moves at a standard pace, jumps well, but has a little bit of start-up before he gets moving at full speed. It’s not major, but might take some getting used to. Upgrades early on are available in the form of health and magic upgrades, allowing you to take more hits and use more relics, respectively. Later upgrades include new armors and shovel techniques, to further expand your options in approaching enemies.
The levels themselves are all rather unique, as they’re spread out through an entire kingdom. Each level has its own set of unique mechanics that add detail to the area while modifying how you go about through the level. One of the first stages, the castle, has boiling oil that pours from the ceiling, crashing chandeliers, and gryphon guardians that breath fire. Throughout each level are a number of checkpoints to benchmark your progress through a level, which can be destroyed for additional challenge and more treasure. All of the levels have their own style that is expertly reflected in the boss of each area, and the bosses further exemplify this through having equally unique mechanics to their fights.
Beyond the standard levels required to finish the game, there are a multitude of levels for earning extra treasure, to get all of the upgrades in the game. Getting more treasure is important, because if you fall in battle, you drop roughly 25% of your current gold, which can be picked up if you don’t perish trying to get it back. These include stationary areas that rely on the use of a particular relic, a sort of test for using said relic, where the reward for passing is, of course, treasure. Another major form of getting treasure are moving enemies on the overworld, a la Super Mario 3, that appear after you’ve beaten their appropriate level. You move on top of the enemy’s space, you go into the level, and fight your way to the end, with many spoils available along the way. In addition to enemies that appear, wandering bosses can also show up in the overworld, which makes for another nice change of pace. These are their own class of enemy, unique as much as the normal bosses, just that they don’t have a level to call their own.
Shovel Knight is a fun action-platforming game, one I enjoy greatly. If you like games like Mega Man, Super Mario World, or other titles from the SNES, you might wanna give Shovel Knight a look. For those in the know, Shovel Knight currently has two other campaigns, focusing on different knights of the Order of No Quarter. Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope is a stand-alone game that plays excellently, but the other campaigns, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, are also amazing games that may be covered here as well. Lastly, Shovel Knight is set to be updated with another campaign sometime 2018 in the first quarter, so if you’re interested in Shovel Knight, keep an eye out for that as well! Available on Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS