Written by: J.H. Longman
New is not always better, sometimes old is and when you get a new old game like the one given to us by Yacht Club Games, Shovel Knight. There is no wonder this game of humble origins, starting as a kickstarter campaign, became the success it is. A game that can now be played not just on home console, or portable, but PC as well, through the likes of Steam. Shovel Knight is a 2014 game whose reign has not yet ended. With a steady supply of updates and new game modes that were always originally intended, the game is still very much so alive and this is a very good thing.
Shovel Knight is a great 8-bit 2D platformer puzzle adventure, which captures not just essence and music theme of both the original Castlevania, Super Mario Bros. and Zelda 2. The comparison is unreal, it is all I can think about when playing through the game and reading its story. It truly captured what made those games what they were and gave it plenty of originality at the same time and then there is the description:
Always honest and helpful, Shovel Knight is a shining example of the code of Shovelry: Slash Mercilessly and Dig Tirelessly!
I really like it, it’s a good play on words, it captures the game’s protagonist perfectly and it holds humour. Only thing I liked better than that was seeing the included manual in the Wii U physical copy of the game, but enough talk of that, let us move on to the story. It begins with a land of Knights, which includes Shovel Knight and the Knight of his affection, Shield Knight. One fateful night whilst exploring the Tower of Fate, they came upon a cursed amulet, which immediately takes over Shield Knight and boots Shovel Knight out of the tower. Saddened by the loss of the one he holds dear, he gives up the life of adventure and exiles himself. With him gone, the Enchantress rose to power and spread evil across the land, making it her domain. Talk of the Tower of Fate becoming unsealed reached Shovel Knight’s ears and he set himself on his path toward the tower, to find the one he loves. But his journey would not be easy, because the Order of No Quarter, under orders from the Enchantress, aspire to stop him.
Shovel Knight is a game of many features, and that’s before the inclusion of amiibo and additional campaigns, one which is out already and others to follow. Firstly there is a village you can visit, to sell discovered music sheets, buy meal tickets to upgrade health, or upgrade magic, buy a discovered relic that you couldn’t afford upon discovery in one of the levels, or if on your first visit to the village, a fishing rod. There’s also a mini-game you can play too, but the village isn’t the only one in the game, there is another further to the east, where the hat shop and the Air Anvil Armoury awaits. A place where you can buy skills for your ShovelBlade, or purchase a new set of armour, bidding farewell to the cerulean coloured suit.
And of course there is much more than just a village or an armoury, there’s mini-levels where a certain relic is required to get to the other end of the level, where a large chest filled with jewels awaits. There’s also mini-levels which consist of battles against wandering travellers, Dark Knight and others. There’s also jewel run levels, where jewels are quite literally everywhere and should you did when playing through the level, like with the others mentioned, that’s okay, because you can still reply it and collect the gold bags you dropped. And you can also go ghostbusting, of course you have to pay 5000 gold for the privilege to do so, but who doesn’t want to go ghostbusting, which does mean they will need to change that classic Ghostbusters line: “Who you gonna call? Shovel Knight!” Sure it doesn’t have quite the same ring, but it is good nonetheless.
Now what about the levels themselves, each one features new layout and mechanisms to keep them all fresh and interesting with varying backgrounds that add to the setting of each stage, as well as a fresh batch of enemies who suit the level best. This is a Back to Old School game, with plenty of new age ideas and although the game’s story is somewhat short in length, capable of being game being finished within 90 minutes, it still holds plenty of replay value. With the likes of Plague of Shadow, another campaign mode which sees you play as Plague Knight on an adventure casting him as the “hero” and is of similar length to Shovel Knight’s main quest. A “game” in its own right, and coming to us in the future via continued dlc are campaigns which will see Spectre Knight and King Knight take centre stage.
There is also the inclusion of the Shovel Knight amiibo, which once activated for the game, will stop you being able to achieve Feats, in-game achievements that are achieved by completing certain requirements. Also, the second you incorporate the amiibo, you will no longer be eligible to achieve the Feats on the save data/profile either. Should you wish to get them all, either don’t play with the amiibo until you have got them all, or create another save file. Now just what can we expect from the amiibo, well instead of purchasing upgrades for it, such as health and magic, both can be achieved by leveling up your registered Shovel Knight, which not only extends to magic and health, but relics as well. The biggest and best aspect of this is it also enables you to play with a second player, allowing you to quest through the world of Knights together.
Shovel Knight isn’t necessarily a game for everyone, but it is a game where you can find yourself losing hours in a single session. Time literally flies by as you keep telling yourself; “just one more level.” But it’s never just one level and now, it’s time for Pros & Cons:
-It is a beautiful re-imaging of games from an era so long ago.
-Gameplay and music complement each other to ensure an engaging experience.
-Nintendo’s added amiibo “challenges” and the multi-player adventures.
-Collectors galore with both Feats to be achieved and music sheets to be discovered.
-Perfect blend of old and new.
-A longer story-mode would have been a great addition. Sure there is the “amiibo campaign,” Plague of Shadows and other campaigns in the coming months, it would have been nice to have a little more to it. After all, had more gone into Shovel Knight, then the events of Plague of Shadows and the others, could have been other whole games in a “Knight” series. Having it all together as one leaves it feeling as a non-complete whole game, but more a collection of shorter games, all centered around a reoccurring theme and universe.
-More skills or even mini-games would have been a welcome addition. Although the shovel play is good, there still feels like there were some missed opportunities, which could be built upon in the months to come, or in the next game.
Digging up a hefty heap of jewels, Shovel Knight lands itself a solid 9.0/10.0 bags of gold. It is certainly one of the best indie games out there and a true gem in Yacht Club Games’ crown. For all of the “old school” gamers out there, the ones brought up on “retro and original,” then this is a game for their shelves. A game they must play and must own, if they don’t already own a copy. In 2015 Nintendo gave us Splatoon and Shovel Knight is certainly Yacht Club Games’ very own Splatoon! A praise it certainly deserves.
But as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of my own and it is encouraged for you to make your own.