After my first 20 minutes playing Shovel Knight, I was pleasantly surprised by the retro 8-bit artwork and sound design. At its core, Shovel Knight is another one of those old-school 2D platformers, but there’s a unique twist. Instead of wielding an actual weapon, our hero only has a shovel which he must use to destroy an evil group of knights known as the Order of No Quarter. The game reminds me a lot of the Mega Man games since each of the knights you fight is the final boss in their own themed castle and the enemies vary depending on the theme of the castle. The only game play mechanics that you have access to are the ability to jump, swing your shovel to the side, and to “pogo” on enemies and destructible terrain using your shovel. The graphics in the game are very colorful pixel art.
I’ve now put about 4 hours into the game so I believe that I got a little over halfway through the game. Over this time, I have defeated the first 7 castle bosses (Black Knight, King Knight, Specter Knight, Treasure Knight, Plague Knight, Mole Knight, and Propeller Knight), as well as a few of the wandering travellers (Phantom Striker, Mr. Hat, and Reize). The castle bosses continue to ramp up in difficulty with the first 2 or 3 being fairly easy to beat in one try to being almost impossible to without dying at least 3 or 4 times. The controls are very precise, which helps when you are moving through increasingly difficult-to-maneuver levels. In order to offset some of the difficulty, the developers have sprinkled humor throughout the game, mostly in the dialogues prior to boss fights. All of the NPCs in Shovel Knight also like to point out how ridiculous it is that such a great knight defeats all of his enemies with a shovel. The character sprites also add to the humorous nature of the game. As you walk around the village, you’ll notice that among the humans are a bunch of people with horse and goat heads. Even the enemies, who are supposed to be more sinister-looking than the rest of the NPCs, have a very goofy feel to them. For example, some of the creatures you fight are electric frogs that stick their heads into the ground until you walk up to them and miniature jousting horses that will charge forward to their own death if they see you in front of them. For the most part, it wasn’t the enemies or bosses themselves that I found that difficult but the wonderfully-crafted jumping puzzles that make up most of the castles. Overall, this is a great game to play if you want a comedic, yet difficult, 2D platformer like the days of old.
- Nate Diamond