In an age where the video game industry is flooded with first person shooters and zombie fighting action games, it’d be easy to take a passing glance at Shovel Knight and think you were looking at a game that came out 20 years ago. Lo and behold, the glory days of the video game mascot and side scrolling platformer live on in Shovel Knight. Yacht Club Games’ crowdfunded gem pays homage to some of the best games of an era long gone, while simultaneously scratching an itch many gamers forgot they had.
From start to finish, Shovel Knight oozes with retro flavor. Everything from the soundtrack to the map have been carefully crafted in a way that feels familiar and charming. In the past few years, 8-bit inspired games have gotten a bad reputation for being lazy instead of creative, but that’s simply not the case with Shovel Knight. It’s more of a love letter to the games of yesterday, as opposed to an easy way out. Indeed, looking the part is never enough and Shovel Knight offers an experience that is surprisingly rich with quirky dialogue, story, unique items, a score of chip tune music, and many secrets to unfold. The NPCs range from funny to downright lovable, and the world sets stage for an epic journey with it’s smattering of themed environments.
When it comes to gameplay, the people at Yacht Club Games make learning the basics of Shovel Knight a priority early on and I found the game stuck to this rhythm to the very end. All levels in Shovel Knight are adorned with several checkpoints and capped with boss fights. The platforming in Shovel Knight often gave me more trouble than the boss fights themselves which I found to be one of the game’s many shining strengths. I died roughly 200 times in the eight and a half hours I spent playing Shovel Knight. During my playthrough, I often found that patience was the key to advancing through a tough obstacle. As someone who still occasionally fires up their Super Nintendo for a bit of nostalgia, I deeply appreciate Shovel Knight’s accessibility. Many games from that generation were designed to be difficult to encourage spending at arcades, which alienated players by demanding an unrealistic level of skill. Thankfully, these problems are nowhere to be found in Shovel Knight since there are no finite numbers of lives to be lost. Making your way through Shovel Knight is not always an easy task, but I never felt that the game was being unfair.
Though Shovel Knight may be a bit on the brief side, the game offers plenty of reasons to replay it. Everything from hidden areas, items, and equipment that change way you play the game in subtle ways to make it feel different and new. Playstation and Xbox One players can each look forward to hidden cameos from a few recognizable characters. Hardcore players will find a new game plus mode that ups the ante when it comes to challenge as well as several feats to conquer for bragging rights. In addition to that, Yacht Club Games have a pipeline of free downloadable content on the way for players who simply can’t get enough.
Shovel Knight filled a void in my life. Playing it felt like I had discovered an arcade classic that’s been inexplicably hidden for years. Shovel Knight manages to be tough, fun, and full of character all at once. Shovel Knight accomplishes everything it set out to achieve and deserves a seat amongst the all star lineup of video game mascots. I absolutely recommend Shovel Knight to anyone who doesn’t have a strict aversion to platformers and even some of those who do. Shovel Knight’s exquisite grasp of old school action make it an Adonis Immaculate on the Game Awry Review Scale. You owe it to yourself to play Shovel Knight. - Brian Garthoff