Shovel Knight is a 2-D side scrolling platformer with an 8-bit visual style developed by Indie Developers Yacht Club Games. You play as Shovel Knight, a courageous, heroic Knight on a quest to stop the evil Enchantress and save his soul mate Shield Knight. Throughout the epic quest, you have to fight your way through the Knights of The Order of No Quarter, with each Knight having a unique style of attack for you to deal with.
Shovel Knights main weapon is obviously his Shovel Blade. You can use it to dig up treasure, pogo stick it to break blocks, damage enemies or even get to a higher ledge as well as swinging it for a normal melee attack.
As you progress further into the game you get to meet an interesting guy called Chester. He’s a shop owner of sorts and can provide you with Relics to enhance your capabilities, be it a fire rod that shoots balls of fire or the mobile gear to use as a ride on for spikes and running over enemies. Every use of a relic does take magic points though (which can be upgraded for a price, along with your HP), so you need to use them wisely.
Treasure plays a huge part in the game. Pretty much everything (with the exception of a couple of HP upgrades) is bought using treasure you pick up along the way, so you need to make sure you keep an eye out for those gems. Along with Relics there are also some Shovel Blade and Armour upgrades which can be bought for a pretty penny to further enhance Shovel Knights abilities.
Each level consists of several checkpoints, which if you so choose, you can break for extra treasure. If you decide to do this, the checkpoint is no longer valid and should you die in the level, you go back to the beginning or the last checkpoint you left unscathed. When you die during a level, and you will die…a lot, you’ll leave behind three bags of treasure (a percentage of your current treasure on hand) which can be picked back up on your way through the level. If you’re particularly bad at a certain part of the level you can quickly lose a fair chunk of your savings if you aren’t able to grab up your dropped treasure.
At the end of every level you get a boss fight. This is where this game truly shines. Each boss fight is unique. To win, you have to approach each one with a different strategy from the one before. When I first started playing Shovel Knight I would get so overwhelmed by the difficulty of the bosses, but with some practice I figured out the patterns and took advantage of them. Because they are so well done, you get a sense of accomplishment for beating the level bosses, especially if you don’t die.
Even though the game doesn’t have graphics that blow you away, there is a real charm about the 8-bit style they went with. The colours are vibrant and the environments sets the scene perfectly for each stage. Yacht Club Games also did a great job on the soundtrack. Did you ever play Super Mario on the SNES or Sonic on the Genesis for a few hours and then find yourself humming the soundtrack? This is how it goes with Shovel Knight, at least for me it did.
After you beat each level you go back to the world map which is quite reminiscent of the map from Super Mario Bros 3. You have flashing Q’s representing levels you have yet to conquer and Shovel Knights face on the levels you have cleared. Also on the world map you have access to two towns where you go to buy your upgrades. Along your way through the game you will encounter travellers that move around your map (again, just like in super mario bros 3), that serve as boss fights that reward you with extra treasure should you defeat them.
Something which is hard to get away from is the sheer frustration that can build up with some of the enemies, especially later on in the game. In one of the later levels there are these flying green guys that have a fan on their back and their sole purpose is to make your life hell. They tend to turn up just when you are jumping over a gap, so you jump, they fly over to you and push you back…right into the pit you were skillfully avoiding. If you are like me and you play it over and over, you will learn the pattern of the enemies and they won’t bother you as much because you expect them, but still, very frustrating.
Onto the achievements! Shovel Knight can be really stingy with the points. I’ve clocked up about 27 hours worth of gameplay and I am currently sitting at 590GS for the game. There are a lot of zero point achievements which are off set by bigger valued achievements for the more end game ones like completing it without dying. You’ll have to clock in a finished time of less than one hour thirty to nab the speed run achievement and play through without buying anything too, so completionists, beware.
When you beat the game you get the option to start a new game plus which sets you at the beginning of the game with all your upgrades and gear intact and the enemies doing more damage. This really adds replayability to a game that can be cleared in about an hour and twenty minutes if you know what you are doing.
I’m most certainly all for Indie Developers. I’ve lost count how many times I have sprung to the defence of the vast quantity of Indie games being released on the Xbox One only to fall on deaf ears. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, I get that. What we have in Shovel Knight is a prime example of why Indie Developers should be given the opportunity to showcase their work on the Xbox One.
Even though Shovel Knight is a short lived experience, I enjoyed every minute of it and I played through it again and again and again…and I still want to go back for more. There are moments of sheer frustration, but Shovel Knight has too much to offer to walk away from it. There’s even a secret boss level where you fight against the three Battletoads! If you enjoy platformers and you haven’t already played Shovel Knight, do yourself a favour and right that wrong.
1)One of the best platformers on the Xbox One to date
2)Great Sound track and visuals
3)Unique boss battles
1)Can become overly frustrating
2)Not enough Shovel Knight!