Shovel Knight by Gustavo Lazo

With vibes of Capcom’s Mega Man and DuckTales, Shovel Knight is the tale of, well, the Shovel Knight, as he digs, fights, and pogo-hops his way through several worlds to reach the Tower of Fate and save his companion, Shield Knight. This action-platform title from Yacht Club Games knows exactly what it is doing to be more than a mere nostalgia trip and ends up a fantastic action-platform game.

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 The tutorial level will give players an understanding of Shovel Knight’s responsive mechanics, how to explore, and how to ultimately succeed against foes. Each level grows in challenge, with platforming that asks the player to think on their feet, find a rhythm, and not fall into oblivion. Navigating each screen of a level also means finding the best way to take down wily enemies. The shovel will not be the only tool at the knight’s disposal. Money collected in each stage can be spent on secondary items that will give Shovel Knight an edge, especially in boss battles, which themselves succeed in execution and can be very fun. They can certainly be challenging if you don’t pick up the pattern, but rarely do they grow frustrating. Shovel Knight itself is not a punishing title, and punishing players is not its overall goal. At worst, a player will lose large sums of coins collected which can be reclaimed on a new attempt (though it's not always easy). Its checkpoint locations aren’t always generous, and the length of the stages can be pretty taxing, but once the last orb of the boss's health depletes and he drops in slow motion defeat, the only feeling is satisfaction.

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Shovel Knight makes use of a pixel aesthetic, with a bit more flair and depth than what an NES might be capable of. I enjoyed the enemy designs, which seem to take cues from not just Mega Man, but also possibly Ghosts'n Goblins. Many stages know how to emphasize atmosphere and mood (particularly Propeller Knight’s level). The story that gives this world meaning is pretty straightforward, but in the hero’s quest to save his companion from the Enchantress, I was surprised at the emotion carried in its conclusion. More impressive, perhaps, is the damned epic soundtrack from notable chip-tune artist Jake Kaufman. No doubt players will come away with a favorite tune by the end of the adventure (“The Lost City”), and Kaufman manages to evoke that sense of adventure from yesteryear with a unique tune for just about every waking moment in Shovel Knight.

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I came away with a 61% completion rate and close to seven hours by Shovel Knight’s end, so this is a title with extensive secrets to unlock, money to be earned, items to buy. In an age where smaller studios rise and create alongside the big publishers, there are occasional moments when attempts to recreate past gaming experiences fall flat, whether through pandering or just not understanding what it is to challenge. Yacht Club Games understands the shift in how people consume games today, what holds up today, and what does not. In Shovel Knight exists a product that not only appeals and fine-tunes what gaming used to be, but offers a challenging, solid game with a fun, adventurous lore for newcomers.


Am waiting until the end of the year to see if this comes to Vita. The perfect platform for it in my opinion.
Alex840 wrote:
Am waiting until the end of the year to see if this comes to Vita. The perfect platform for it in my opinion.
The 3D is fantastic on the 3DS.
Shovel Knight is terrific. It's also extremely difficult for me; I am sure it's a lack of patience combined with middling stick skills but I'm finding it harder to go back to knowing the many deaths in front of me. But it's not coming off my 3DS so this is not the end. I am about 4 hours in and 13,000,000 deaths. :-)

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