Review: Shovel Knight

I’m not a fan of side-scroll platform puzzle games; falling down a bottomless pit to my death multiple times or landing on a spike because of a careless slip up never really sat well with my short-fused patience. After seeing many good reviews and Let’s Play videos of a certain game, I finally decided to give the ol’ side-scroll another go, and I’ve had a change in opinion.

Shovel Knight, an 8-bit platform puzzle adventure developed by Yacht Club
Games, debuted in 2015 and has been picking up pace since. Of course, it helps that it’s available to play on many different gaming platforms, including the PC, and has recently begun selling Amiibos for co-op gameplay on the Nintendo Wii U.

The player takes on the role of our determined and steadfast hero, Shovel Knight, who goes on a journey across the land to rescue his beloved companion, Shield Knight. Wielding nothing but a mysteriously all-powerful shovel, the player clears each stage on the map, facing the knights of the sinister Order of No Quarter led by the evil Enchantress. Each stage is themed to suit the personality of each boss knight, making for interesting new challenges as the game progresses.

The player can also aim to accomplish goals during the game, like getting through a whole level without collecting any gold or emerging unscathed from a fight with a knight from the Order. My personal favourite? Beating the game without falling down a bottomless pit. I’m trying it right now, and the only thing I’m digging is an early grave for my sanity.

One of the many things I like about Shovel Knight is the old school look to it. Aside from being a 2D 8-bit game, it’s got a couple of other features to it that pay homage to older games. A world map that’s reminiscent of an older Super Mario world map, and Shovel Knight’s downward shovel attack reminds me of the downward sword strike from Zelda II.

I dig the 8-bit soundtrack in this game, composed by Jake “virt” Kaufman and occasionally Manami Matsumae. Each boss fight track is unique and fast-paced, as a boss battle song should be. This original soundtrack gets me pumped and ready to kick some armored ass. No spoilers, but that final boss theme is really something else. Earth shattering, even. I can practically imagine a rock band or even an orchestra doing covers of these tracks.

I should warn you: if you hate puns in any form, avoid this game. I’m also (not) sorry that I made you read a few in this article.

Yacht Club Games has recently released Plague of Shadows, spin-off downloadable content (DLC) featuring Plague Knight, the Order’s own mad alchemist and one of the bosses that Shovel Knight encounters.

This extension shows the seedy underground world of the land of Shovel Knight, boasting new obstacles that only Plague Knight can surpass. As well, you’ve got a new arsenal that you can switch up to change how you attack your enemies as well as new goals to accomplish. Plague of Shadows will have you rooting for the villain.

Yacht Club Games has also reported further DLC in development following the storyline of some other boss knights. Already announced: spin-offs for the pretentious King Knight and the spirited Specter Knight, both of which I’m really looking forward to seeing.

Interesting storyline, a varied and loveable collection of characters, really fun
soundtrack, and all-around great gameplay, I commend the developers for a job well done. Truly a diamond in the rough, I suggest giving Shovel Knight a shot. Take a leap, strike the earth, and get digging.

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