Developed by: Yacht Club Games Platforms: Steam, Wii U, 3DS Genre: Platformer Release Date: June 26th, 2014 ESRB Rating: E for Everyone Price: $14.99 USD
Shovel Knight, a game created by the remarkable minds over at Yacht Club Games was released on June 26th. This game became a fan favorite after being Kickstarted, raising roughly 4x the amount needed, making it an instant hit. Shovel Knight rose to fame on Steam and the Wii U/3DS virtual stores and was trending on Twitter for a number of days.
Enter Shovel Knight, a valiant knight who wields nothing but a shovel and a medley of relics on his way to defeat the mighty Enchantress to save his beloved, Shield Knight. On his perilous journey, Shovel Knight uses his equipment (with the help of upgrades to his shovel, armor, health, and magic) to hack, slash, and dig through an assortment of enemies on each level, ultimately leading to a knight of the Order of No Quarter, all of whom work under the evil Enchantress. With love and courage by his side, Shovel Knight will fight to whatever is necessary to get back what was taken from him and to restore peace upon the land.
Shovel Knight plays fairly well. The controls are easy to use, the movement is fluid, and the platforming is quite entertaining. When moving Shovel Knight, he moves just like he should; there’s no delay or any unnecessary sliding. The controls are faulty and badly placed at first, but you can always change them into a more suitable configuration. I also suggest switching the relic button to have it’s own button rather than the “Up+Attack” system that it’s on. It makes using the relic more difficult and switching between moving and attacking to using the relic a challenge on its own.
The platforming in this game stays true to it’s roots, making this game a modern, but classic gem. The feel of the game makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the golden age of video games, before it was obstructed by “how a game looks” rather than “how a game plays”. The platforming, easy at first, starts to really take a toll on the player as they make it so that your timing, as well as speed, will play a huge role just to make it to the other side. Using conveyor belts, bubbles, and even enemies themselves, this game doesn’t cease to amuse all platforming fans.
The upgrades and relics, though few, are very useful and have saved me on numerous occasions. With a total of twelve relics, five pieces of armor (not including original), and three shovel upgrades, there’s a large combination of what Shovel Knight can wield on his adventures through the different levels. These can help Shovel Knight get to hard-to-reach platforms, survive from a deadly fall, kill an enemy, and even make him invulnerable for a set period of time.
Shovel Knight also features collectibles and achievements (known as Feats) that allow the player have more to do even after beating the game. In the first town, the player will meet a bard who asks for nothing but his music sheet back. In return he will give you 500 gold for every sheet and will play any collected song. The achievements, synced with Steam, goes from being as easy as buying an upgrade to being as difficult as not dying the entire game! They truly wanted to make a challenge for the hardcore achievement hunters.
I have an issue, however, with Shovel Knight when he gets attacked. When Shovel Knight gets attacked, he gets knocked back a few steps, which, when on a small platform, could lead him to his death. This has killed me in numerous misadventures and does kill my mood to wanting to play it. Another issue is when Shovel Knight gets hit, he will sometimes go invisible (confirmed on PC version, thus far). This glitch makes it hard to platform and fight in boss battles. And, although I love difficulty in a game, I did find myself getting mad at the game. This would make me quit, not play for an hour or so, but go right back to it.
Yacht Club Games wanted this game to feel as retro as possible, but, at the same time wanted to make it modern. They did a fantastic job with this as the stages and characters look remarkable in the retro art style. The map overview reminds one of Super Mario, where the player controls Shovel Knight on a specific path to and from levels at will. In the levels, however, the art style has a set of layers where it has a continuous background with a foreground that could hold trees, graves, or castle walls. On top of that is where the platforms will be placed, giving a feeling of 3D platforming, but sticking with the classic 2D print.
Classic, classic, classic. This game just oozes classic and it’s lovely. Immersing yourself in the retro world with, not just the graphics, but also the music brings you to a state of euphoric nostalgia. The music is intense and engaging, allowing the player to feel like they are playing their favorite games from the video game days of young. Although you have to stick with the music of the stage, you can always go back to the bard in the first town to listen to any song that’s featured in the game (providing you found the sheet, of course)!
Even though the game has it’s upsets and glitches, it was prominent with the feeling of classic with a hint of modern. This game is definitely my game of the month and quite possibly my game of the year. It features hearty music, gorgeously classic art, and a sense of difficulty that is unmatched by most platformers. The game may be short, but the replay factor is so high, I don’t find myself putting it back on the digital shelf. Yacht Club Games, I tip my hat to you.