Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
If you’ve followed my reviews for a while you would know that I’m a huge fan of retro games, as well as modern games that draw inspiration from them. Games such as Rogue Legacy and Mercenary Kings take the best from classic and modern game design, and merge it a way that is fun to both for everyone.
Yacht Club Games’ ‘Shovel Knight’ is a game that you’ve no doubt heard of. It’s the NES era throwback game that features a knight armed with a shovel. He digs up treasure, dispatches his foes with a swift swing of his shovel, and pogo bounces along his enemies similar to Scrooge McDuck. Shoves has finally made his way to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but is this a game that was worth digging up for modern consoles?
Shovel Knight tells the story of the titular Shovel Knight. One day Shovel Knight and his partner, Shield Knight explored the Tower of Fate. At the Tower of Fate, a cursed amulet takes possession of Shield Knight and seals Shovel Knight outside. Shovel Knight goes into exile after the events, grieving the loss of his beloved Shield Knight. During this time, The Enchantress rises to power, and unseals the Tower of Fate. Shovel Knight hopes to find Shield Knight in the tower, but to do so; he must defeat the Order of No Quarter, who serves The Enchantress.
Everything about Shovel Knight is delightfully retro. The visuals are a gorgeous recreation of the NES era’s visuals and the game will quickly tug on the heartstrings of gamers who played Mega Man, DuckTales, Castlevania and other games from the 80s. There have been many attempts by retro loving developers to pay homage to the NES era, but many have fallen flat or felt like uninspired copycat recreations, Shovel Knight manages to find the perfect balance between nostalgic and unique. To summarise, Shovel Knight’s visuals are perfect.
Gameplay-wise, Shovel Knight takes a lot of inspiration from iconic action platformers like Castlevania and Mega Man. The level design also borrows from mega man, in that the camera pans from scene to scene while keeping a close up zoom on the action.
Each level has a different theme and a unique look, and of course, they are populated by enemies and filled with treasure. Both of these can be addressed by Shovel Knight’s shovel, which can dig up treasure but also fell opponents unlucky enough to challenge the valiant hero.
To complement the level design, each level also has its own musical score. The Shovel Knight soundtrack (much like the game’s visuals) is bound to make a retro gamer fall in love with it – it’s bleepy, bloopy, catchy and atmospheric, and easily the best soundtrack I’ve heard in a quite a while.
Being a retro throwback title, you better believe there are bosses to fight. Like Mega Man and Batman villains, these guys have chosen a theme for their nefarious careers. There’s King Knight, Treasure Knight, Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Polar Knight, and Tinker Knight – all of whom provide a fun challenge for the player.
A huge part of Shovel Knight’s charm likes in its flawless recreation of NES era games – not just in its visual and sound design, but also in its simplistic but challenging gameplay. The game always provides a decent challenge for the player, but without resorting to cheap or unfair difficulty spikes like so many modern games. You really get the sense that Yacht Club Games knew exactly what was so brilliant about classic games – and they can recreate that brilliance effortlessly.
This is normally the part of a review where I sum up the negative aspects of a game’s design, but with Shovel Knight, there aren’t any. The game is balanced yet challenging, visually unique yet nostalgic, it has a killer soundtrack and it oozes unique charm. Seeing as it recreates retro game design perfectly, I can see some younger gamers having trouble with it. This is no Call of Duty or Skyrim, where you have companions telling you what to do and how to do it at all times – this is a simple left to right side-scroller, where precision and timing are key to beating the game.
Shovel Knight is a terrific game that every single retro gamer should check out. Yacht Club Games have absolutely nailed the game in every department, from its retro visuals and soundtrack to its simplistic yet challenging gameplay. If you’re after a new game that will charm the pants off you, or if you’ve just finished Mega Man for the umpteenth time, it’s time to pick up your shovel. For Shovelry!