Shovel Knight is the one of the many indie darlings of the recent era, the team at Yacht Club Games kickstarted it for PC, WiiU and 3DS and now the game is coming to Xbox One as well as the recent Playstation 3, 4 and PSVita release.
What sets out the later releases apart from the original launch is the platform specific content, on Xbox One it has a Battletoads level and on Playstation it features Kratos which are pretty cool additions to the game and something nice to entice fans on new platforms to invest as well as some nice fan service too.
For those aware, Shovel Knight is a classic action adventure with an 8-bit retro aesthetic where you play as Shovel Knight, a small shovel-wielding knight (shockingly) on a quest to defeat the evil Enchantress and save his lost beloved Shield Knight but The Order of No Quarter stand between him and the Enchantress. Gameplay is based around platforming, shovel hopping/slashing enemies and digging to fight through levels, collect treasure and beat the bosses.
What I like about Shovel Knight is that it knows it influences from the NES-era, Yacht Club Games looked at what those games great and used them to create something that still feels new and is great in its own right, its well designed with fun levels, has a bit of charm to the story and the world as well as substance to the gameplay with different mechanics. There are collectibles and treasures to find with plenty of upgrade options and if it was released in the NES-era its trying to emulate it would be as well-regarded as those it takes after.
The game is set out across a Super Mario Bros style map with 10 main levels, there are also some side dungeons which are not required to play but definitely worth it as well as the hidden Battletoads section but can still be found by those who look carefully and explore every inch. The main levels are a good challenge without being too hard, there are plenty of enemy types and all have a boss battle at the end which can be fought quite similarly or differently for each one.
Shovel Knights main weapon is of course his trusty shovel which is swung and hopped on to fight enemies which can be upgraded too, it’s a shovel sword and the hopping is a nice tool to help you get up to higher areas, across gaps to find treasure and other secrets, it can also be upgraded with a few new features to make it the ultimate companion. As you find more treasure which earns you gold you are able to acquire relics which have extra abilities such as a fishing rod, dust knuckles, a propeller dagger and flare want (and others), these have different uses in levels and whilst not required except for in a few of the side dungeons they help mix up the gameplay without affecting the balance, there’s lot of other uses for your gold like increasing your health blocks, magic limit, weapon and armour upgrades which give you different choices in how you can play should you wish to play in a slightly different style.
The Xbox exclusive Battletoads level I found it be a really great addition and if Rare really aren’t developing a new entry in the franchise I’d be very happy with Yacht Club Games making one, the level is split into 3 parts between each Battletoad, its fun and quite challenging which given how the games are looked back on is in keeping with that, the three sections are great though and there is some cool interaction with them before and afterwards. I wont spoil itfor anyone who wants to go in fresh but the different sections are as you would expect a Battletoads game to play and it’s really great to see the effort that went in there is lots of fan service and its very fun, you also earn a new piece of armour as well which has its own Battletoad-abilities.
Some of the levels focusing more on platforming than crushing enemies, which I quite liked, there were some levels that used hopping a lot more than others but its not always like there, there are things like fans blowing Shovel Knight around a level, parts where the screen is mostly black with claps of thunder to help you see and so on, these mix up the gameplay a bit (and there are others too) to give each level a bit of a hook, I liked some more than others but generally I enjoyed these bits to the levels as they avoided the game being too samey.
It uses an 8-bit retro aesthetic which may say it’s overused due to how many indie games opt for a similar style but I think games like this are all about the art style to go with the aesthetic and Shovel Knight certainly looks great and the presentation overall including the cut scenes as well and it shows all over the game including the Battletoads above which look familiar and great in the style. The music too also has the same retro vibe as the graphics and when done right it all fits together in a great way which Shovel Knight does, there’s a nice charm about it which shines through wherever you are in the game, things like talking to NPCs in the towns or dialogue between characters is all very charming and nicely done.
It is a rare game for me that I feel that is just very good and I have very few complaints about it in any way, there are some sections I found somewhat frustrating like the fans blowing you around but I think it was more down to me rather than bad game design. The bosses are all different which complements their levels with different mechanics to them to make each one unique as well as having lots of hidden treasure, collectibles to find and new enemy types to fight, Shovel Knight is an expertly crafted game that captures the essence of the its influences incredibly well and being able to be something that is great in its merits too.
Shovel Knight is certainly worth playing, there’s plenty to do without forgetting to mention unlocking challenging achievements and New Game +, it is a great game that is worthy of the accolades it has received and this is even clearer in showing the talent of the team behind the game with the Battletoads level and how something extra is not only a great nostalgia trip for fans and a great addition to the game for Xbox fans.
- Price: $14.99/£11.99
- Release Date: 29th April (Xbox One), out now on all others
- Formats: Xbox One, Playstation 4/3/PSVita, WiiU, 3DS, PC
- Developer: Yacht Club Games
- Publisher: Yacht Club Games
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