Shovel Knight

shovel knight

First Impressions

Shovel Knight is a 2-D platformer with a strong retro aesthetic. The player plays as the titular shovel-wielding hero who sets out to stop an evil enchantress, with some subplot about Shovel Knight’s missing friend, Shield Knight.

The gameplay is very traditional, designed to be reminiscent of nostalgic platformers from NES-era days. The player can jump and attack as expected, with a key mechanic - bouncing, in which Shovel Knight holds his shovel downwards like a pogo-stick, allowing him to bounce off enemies and other objects. Unlike some other platformers, the game has little emphasis on speed, and I was unable to find any sort of controls for running.

The levels are challenging, but very straightforward – the only key to doing well is timing. Anyone who enjoys precise, methodical platformers or nostalgic games would appreciate Shovel Knight.

Going Further

Shovel Knight has two major flaws. The first is a minor issue – the player’s movement is slow. While the controls are tight, the slow pace of the game can be discouraging.

The second issue is the game’s punishing difficulty. Enemies and bosses can often have attacks that are very difficult to survive. Even after defeating such enemies, I often felt that it was because of luck and not skill. For example, I would often feel that using items that grant temporary invincibility was my only option, even though this made for unsatisfying victories. Even then, whether or not I won a battle was always up in the air – it felt as though my victories were based on trying the same things over and over until something worked, and I didn’t always feel as though I grew as a player.

These concerns aside, I enjoyed Shovel Knight. The story is simple and non-obtrusive to gameplay, yet just deep enough to understand the protagonist’s drives. Various hidden items and customizable abilities make the game feel vast and highly replayable. With nostalgic and crisp visuals and a catchy soundtrack, the game is easy to play for an extended period of time.

The difficulty is intense, but the game gives the player a large and renewable number of retries. Moreover, the high difficulty is justifiable – Shovel Knight is a game that hearkens back to older platformers, when mistakes had real consequences, and developers didn’t design games to be easy. I would certainly recommend it to those with experience in similar platformers, but not for those who want detailed graphics, heavy plot, or accommodating difficulty levels.