Shovel Knight Review (PC)
The promise of crowd funded game design is still a little bit sketchy. Lots of brilliant ideas and re-imaginations of classic designs can be found on the various portals that facilitate this new system, and a growing number have actually made it across the finish line. Those that did have all been pretty well received, and Shovel Knight adds another chapter to the big book of indie crowdfunding success stories.
Based on classic gameplay ideas from Mega Man, Castlevania, and various RPGs; Shovel Knight carves out its own unique niche with a finely honed blade spade. The controls are tight, the story lighthearted, and the world crafted with care. Every nook and cranny oozes with nostalgic charm and fun challenges.
The story starts as simply as any other 8-bit adventure; Shovel Knight’s beloved partner Shield Knight has gone missing, leaving him lost and distraught, but a new evil force threatens the land, and he cannot help but rejoin the battle. He must travel across the world and defeat the Order of No Quarter and their leader, the evil Enchantress. Throughout his journey he’ll meet many citizens and knights of the land, collect relics that unlock additional attack options, and scoop up tons of sweet gilded loot.
The player travels the world via a map similar to Super Mario Bros. 3. There’s a main village where you can interact with the townsfolk, barter with merchants, and discover little bits of NPC fun. From there you select which Knight from the Order of No Quarter to attack next. The map is revealed in sections and the path is blocked until the nearby knights are defeated. As you progress, other additional roaming warriors will seek to challenge the might of the Shovel Night and extra treasure runs will allow you to build your fortune.
The many various areas of the world of Shovel Knight are deeply unique, offering wonderful backdrops and amusing, fresh enemy designs. Each level stands out as its own specific land and the same room never appears twice. Some enemies get recycled, but not enough to feel cheap. The difficulty definitely ramps up as progress is made through the land, but through exploration and lootification, the Knight can be outfitted with special armors and attacks to help even the odds. There’s definitely some skill required as the later levels become more and more unforgiving, just as any classic adventure game should. This game however, never feels unfair – each failure is caused by player error alone, and never bad game design. Another borrowed gameplay idea is that you lose some of your loot when you die, but are allowed a chance to recollect it from the scene of your death, a la Dark Souls.
The sense of humor that permeates the game is fun and refreshing. The rats strapped to propellers and amusing quips from villagers are fun, but my favorite is a grumpy toad in the smithy town. He just grumbles back and forth in front of his cottage complaining about how miserable he is, leading our hero to try to cheer him up with groan-worthy puns. Which fittingly ends with the toad rolling his eyes and shaking his head in disgust. Classic!
After spending a whole day with my friend Shovel Knight, I must recommend it to anyone that enjoys fast, fun action with a decent challenge thrown in. For half the price of what it cost to see Transformers in 3D Imax, this game delivers a giant shovel full of imagination, fun, and adventure. A must-have!
If you’re looking for some classic, solid action you can do no better than Shovel Knight. Great retro graphics combined with the best chiptune soundtrack since Mega Man 2 and tight gameplay make this a time capsule that delivers on the promises of an era of gaming gone by.