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Shovel Knight

Developer / Publisher: Yacht Club Games
26 June 2014
Shovel Knight - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.88 / 5.0
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1,541 Ratings / 8 Reviews
#350 All-time
#8 for 2014
Run, jump, and battle as Shovel Knight, wielder of the Shovel Blade, in a quest for his lost beloved. Take down the nefarious knights of the Order of No Quarter and confront their menacing leader, The Enchantress.
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Shovel of Hope:
Pretty fun campaign overall. I think I wanna start with some gripes I have (which I think will partially extend to the other 3 campaigns too). First, I understand that the game as a whole is pretty much a love letter to NES as a whole especially to the Mega Man [ロックマン] franchise but something about the aesthetic feels a bit off to me. It feels like the whole NES aesthetic is a bit forced and ends up feeling like an odd self-imposed limitation rather than a true art style. I think the same goes with a lot of the music, it feels weirdly too perfect at using the NES art and sound aesthetics to the point where it feels like the aesthetics constrain the game and feel forced as a result. Second, and more importantly, the level design... it's good but I do think it could be a lot better. A lot of the levels are pretty much just a bit too long and I think that's pretty clear when every level has at least 4 checkpoints to go through. I also wish some of the levels take better advantages of the relics or were otherwise made with them in mind since a lot of them feel rather useless. I'd love to have at least more mini-levels that uses something like the Alchemy Coin or Throwing Anchor kind of like how there are mini-levels for the three relics that, other than the Fishing Rod, actually have some use in this game: Phase Locket, Dust Knuckles, and Propeller Dagger. Lastly, dying feels awful in this game. This might be a weird complaint considering dying should be punishing if the developers want it to be but I'm not a big fan of how the game handles it. When you die, you end up losing money that can be retrieved on your next life via flying bags. Those flying bags can however end up being in tricky locations though and if you happen to die on the way there without collecting them then they are gone forever. It's not that big of a deal in hindsight considering the game loves giving you money anyhow but when I was dying a few times that way, it completely threw me off mentally to the point where I kept dying more and more until I had to mentally reset and exit out of the level to start fresh with most of my money on hand.

That all being said though, damn this game manages to still be a lot of fun. The controls took a lot of getting used to but once they clicked, they do feel very precise to work with. Shovel pogoing off enemies is super fun and the shovel upgrades, though very minimal, are fun to work with too. It feels fun to deliver a big slash that deals double damage and dig up a huge pile instantly to receive all the treasure. While I complained about some of the level design, there are points of praise as well. I do adore how the secrets are handled in each level, it's very rewarding to people who try to explore especially when they wish to find music scrolls, a relic within the level, or just more treasure in general to buy more things with. The levels are also very appropriately difficult, getting more difficult the further you get in the game while giving you pieces to learn and test that you've learned them. I also generally quite like the bosses too, they're all fun to fight especially when you figure out how they work and they all vary in terms of strategy. King Knight's fight is pretty basic but with fun boss patterns, Tinker Knight's fight is appropriately deceptive, Plague Knight's fight is extremely chaotic, and Polar Knight's fight feels appropriately dangerous considering he can basically summon instant death spikes at will. Similarly, while I complained about the aesthetic it does still do a lot right, with some of the music tracks and animations hitting very very well. I think my favorite animation in the game is when you give a meal ticket to the gastronomer and he just cooks up a meal right in front of you to give you an extra health point, it's just so well made. I think the best thing this game does though is how it integrates its story. There's a lot of very good dialogue between Shovel Knight and the bosses especially as you approach the Tower of Fate where it pretty much tells you the big twist but I think it's the most well integrated in the dream sequences that sometimes play as you progress. In those sequences, you try to save Shield Knight from a horde of enemies in a way where it feels like Shovel Knight is still genuinely haunted by not being able to save her forcing him to live a life of solitude for an extended amount of time. Those dream sequences build up and become more tense as you get closer and closer to your main objective and it's a very excellent way of storytelling.

Overall, I have some issues with the level design, how death is handled, and the aesthetic but the controls, story, and general positives of the level design and aesthetic that the game provides more than make up for it. It's a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding campaign.

Plague of Shadows: TBA

Specter of Torment: TBA

King of Cards: TBA
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Sothras 2024-02-06T00:06:27Z
2024-02-06T00:06:27Z
4.0
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shovel of hope
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Starts out mediocre, but eventually improves greatly
Shovel of Hope: 58/100, Dialog and boss fights were fun, but other then that, the levels are long slogs, well designed slogs, but tedious and annoying nonetheless, the overly-restrictive combat ability of Shovel Knight doesn't help either.

Plague of Shadows: 63/100, Decently big step up from Shovel of Hope, the ability to customize your primary was extremely fun and useful to experiment with for bossfights, but outside of that in normal platforming, its near useless. Moveset is a big improvement from Shovel Knight, even if the levels are still a drag regardless. Dialog was also fun, even with the corny ending

Specter of Torment: 65/100, Seeing the new visuals and music for each of the prequal levels was extremely fun and were very well done! Specter Knight's moveset is wayyy more freeing than Shovel Knight, almost to a fault though, levels quickly become a piece of cake once you get used to your abilities. Dialog was alright.

King of Cards: 75/100, The massive level design overhaul was greatly appreciated, levels no longer overstayed their welcome. Moveset struck the exact right balance between freeing and limited. Joustus was very fun added an entire dimension to my playthrough, giving my gold a consistent sink even after i get all of the main game abilities, which makes gold feel actually valuable now. Change in story tone was fun, the ending especially felt very well made.

Total game rating: 67/100
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MrCube_ 2023-05-12T11:42:02Z
2023-05-12T11:42:02Z
5.8
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This is a really fun throwback to the megaman style of gaming that modern indie titles have become obsessed with in recent years. Admittedly it isn't my favourite game in this regard (that honour goes to Cuphead) however this is still a blast and worthy of your time.

I guess if I had an issue with this game, it's that it tries to do too much at once as it wants to be a platformer as well as a boss simulator. While this formula was perfect for the megaman franchise, here it leans too much in the platforming which means you'll often forget that your main goal is to fight the different knights as the game progresses. I also don't care for the final battle as it feels very gimmicky to me, but thankfully it's not enough to drag down the overall enjoyment. What occasionally does is the games insistence of recovering lost treasure after you die much like Hollow knight after it. It isn't too punishing when you die, however it does make going after the secrets in each level somewhat redundant given how you're very likely to lose all of your treasure due to one misplaced jump in a level. That's not to say that it isn't worth exploring each stage, rather it can put you off if you're trying to save your treasure for much needed upgrades such as increasing your overall health and you magic meter. I also find the fishing mechanic to be reductive as even when I get it to work, it only gives me some treasure which I feel is a waste of my time. Thankfully, the other powerups this game has to offer are worth purchasing as they really help out in your quest as well as making it much easier to find treasure without dying too often.

It's a game with a bit too much fat on it to be a perfect game, however what it gets right (that I the boss battles and overall level design) makes it one of the better games to come out in recent memory.
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Foxylover92 2021-10-13T01:37:15Z
2021-10-13T01:37:15Z
4.0
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Here’s a pressing question for all you gamers under the age of thirty: do you actively avoid playing games from the pre-3D era because of their lack of availability, or because their foundation is comparatively primitive, and therefore jarringly inaccessible? The reason can’t be because these games are locked in an archival vault, for they are commonly ported to modern platforms. It must be due to the prevailing notion that video games have an arbitrary expiration date. C’mon, fess up. I’m not saying everyone born after the early 90’s shares these predilections, but there seems to be a widespread viewpoint among younger gamers that vilifies games that predate their own conception, especially those of the early pixelated 2D period released before the late 1990’s. A sneering distaste for the classics isn’t as pervasive with films or music. Zoomers will attend theater screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey high as a kite and emphatically detail their “transcendental experience” to their peers with a Pulp Fiction poster in the background of their dorm rooms. No one is delusional enough to place the prequels or Disney Star Wars films over the immortal original trilogy regardless of their age. Maybe it’s because I spend too much time on the internet, but I’ve noticed that discovering older music artists via the world wide web is a more common practice among teenagers now than it was when I was in high school. Older video games, on the other hand, are treated with the same reaction of revulsion as if they were being forced to eat their brussel sprouts. Admittedly, as someone born in the early 3D era, many of the industry practices and comparatively primitive facets of game design can verge on being excruciating. I can count merely a handful of games that were released before I was born that are among my personal favorites, as there is only so much pain I can handle before my spirit shatters and I am in dire need of a relaxing bath with some chocolate ice cream for comfort. Conversely, there are plenty of those whose gaming prime was this jagged era, and the shift to 3D left them bewildered. They’ve assigned themselves as the role of gaming elder statesmen, whose repertoire is cryogenically frozen to the time before the medium became polygonal. After a certain point where the gaming industry reached a point of proficiency with 3D visuals to an almost cinematic extent, games that resembled those of the primeval pixelated years started popping out of the indie woodwork. One of the first breakout titles in this new wave of old school revival games was Shovel Knight, a 2D side scroller that arguably bridged the generational gap of gamers.

Honestly, Shovel Knight’s mission was not to create a perfect harmony between the two contrasting factions. The prerogative of Yacht Club Games was to convince the youngins in their Call of Duty Team Deathmatch lobbies to respect their elders, or at least respect the pioneering craftsmanship their elders laid out in the vein of a fresh IP. Even then, Shovel Knight didn’t have any of the desirable qualities that would’ve enticed these kids, as Shovel Knight is as willfully retro as a jukebox in an off road diner. Shovel Knight audaciously traipses around with an 8-bit fur coat and pixelated platform boots to flaunt its influences. Its style is shameless, and its intentions are unmistakable. Shovel Knight could’ve fit comfortably in the vast NES library, and anyone who didn’t know any better would see the game and assume that a buried, obscure gem (probably a game that was once exclusive to Japan) has been dug up and ported to modern consoles. While only the most open-minded of adolescent gamers would give their attention to Shovel Knight, one would think that the champions of the old gaming guard would salivate at the prospect of a new game that encapsulates a bygone time that makes them comfortable enough to step out of their cocoon of nostalgia. However, Shovel Knight’s unabashed throwback identity could veer into being an 8-bit pastiche. The tropes and overall aesthetic of Shovel Knight are comprised from games that were over two decades old at the time, so the familiarities are sunken deep into the annals of video game history. Why would an “old school” gamer play Shovel Knight when they already have access to the hundreds of games that Shovel Knight liberally borrows from? Shovel Knight is like a Frankenstein’s monster composed of the decayed bits of gaming’s ancestors, but this statement doesn’t imply that Shovel Knight is derivative. Even though Shovel Knight is a remodel of a product that’s perceived to be “out of date,” decades of progress elevate its stature above its influences.

For those of you who have plenty of experience playing pixelated titles released before the fifth generation of gaming, you’ll attest to the fact that the visuals of the NES looked rough for more reasons than the 8-bit pixels. Not only did the chunky graphics resemble nothing akin to real life, the fuzzy, static overlay of the cubical CRT TV’s was an unattractive visor that accompanied it. Sure, the use of CRT TV’s persisted far into the 2000’s, but the hazy drawbacks of the television technology were especially a discordant display in an era where objects and characters were rendered by rudimentary shapes and colors. Thankfully, the developers didn’t resort to that level of grating authenticity, as the general visual fidelity is up to par with the high-definition standards of current times. Unlike attempting to screen a real NES on an HDTV, Shovel Knight showcases the absolute apex of 8-bit pixel art. Color pallets unfeasible on the NES flourish beautifully in the characters and every trace of the scenery, and the subtleties in the sprite work retain a sense of refinement that keeps the lurid look of the game from overflowing and becoming a pixelated Argento film. Characters are expressive despite their intentionally simplistic physical features and there isn’t a single object that inadvertently gets muddled in with the contrasting colors making it indiscernible. One could argue that Shovel Knight’s visuals don’t accurately evoke those of the NES because it would be impossible to render something as proficiently striking on Nintendo’s first home console, and they’d technically be correct. My stance on this claim is that the revamped, NES-esque presentation gives the 8-bit graphics more credence as a legitimate visual style instead of being synonymous with graphical insufficiency.

Something else ubiquitous across the NES era was the designation of video game protagonists as mascots, charismatic characters to represent the brands of their companies. This practice made video games seem like a medium catered to children, but now it’s a quaint facet of a more innocent fetal age of gaming. The titular character Shovel Knight could’ve been believable as a plucky representative among the Captain N crowd, as enough personality oozes out of his pores to make his armor rust. Aesthetically, the cerulean warrior masterfully combines the ideal mascot balance of badass and adorable like the plethora of animals that were popular at the time, although the latter characteristic might be attributed to his dwarfish physical stature. Shovel Knight is noble, jolly, and is ready to face any type of danger to protect and serve his kingdom. He’s the archetypal knight from medieval lore, powered by a strong sense of chivalry and divine duty. We never catch even a glimpse of what Shovel Knight looks like beneath his horned headpiece, but all of us can readily assume by his personality that he’s devilishly handsome with a twinkly smile that makes all the noblewomen swoon.

His choice of weapon, the shovel of his namesake, may seem like a handicap compared to the traditional sword, and may imply that our hero is of a lower class status in the kingdom’s caste than the average knight. That, or its indicative of the modern indie circuits pension for wry quirkiness that would’ve escaped the audience of 8-bit gaming’s prime. Despite the weapon’s silliness, Shovel Knight proves that the shovel is mightier than the sword (this comparison doesn’t work the same way as the classic adage does). All of the kingdom’s evil is vanquished easily with the whack of our hero’s weird weapon of choice, and it's also very accommodating to Shovel Knight’s flexible range of movement. Shovel’s Knight’s basic attack with his weapon is a two-handed scoop that takes some elbow grease, but the true testament to Shovel Knight’s agile potency is the stabbing aerial move where he can deal damage to enemies by hopping on them similar to Scrooge McDuck’s move in the licensed NES classic DuckTales. The shovel’s shape also allows Shovel Knight to bat most projectiles Besides being the object his persona is associated with, Shovel Knight’s trusty gardening tool feels as natural and as deadly as the Master Sword or Simon Belmont’s whip. Speaking of which, Shovel Knight also has full access to an assortment of additional secondary items with a similar function to the ones in Castlevania. While the medieval setting may warrant these secondary weapons to also share a similar religious theme to Castlevania’s, Shovel Knight’s secondary weapons are non-secular tools referred to as relics. To supplement the shovel’s lack of projectile range that isn’t defensive, Shovel Knight can use items like the Flare Wand and Chaos Sphere to fling fire and ricocheting energy balls. The Dust Knuckles allow Shovel Knight to dig through the dirt, and the Phase Locket makes him invulnerable for a brief period. Like in Castlevania, these relics are activated by pressing up on the controller’s D-pad, and their use coincides with the amount of magic fuel that is easily collected on the field in blue magic sacks. Shovel Knight is smooth and incredibly capable, which is ideal for a 2D platformer protagonist.

As capable as Shovel Knight seems, he is but a shell of his former self. The enigmatic knight is actually past his glory days and isn’t as strong as he used to be. You see, Shovel Knight’s full potential has been split in half due to the disappearance of his partner, Shield Knight. Given the multiple contrasts of Shield Knight’s striking red and Shovel Knight’s deep blue, the offensiveness to her defensiveness, and their opposite gender roles, the “two halves of one whole” dynamic is apparent in their relationship. Unfortunately, their ties were severed by a cursed amulet that awakened the wicked Enchantress, the main antagonist of the game. With the power of the amulet, the Enchantress sealed Shield Knight in her dark, imposing Tower of Fate, leaving Shovel Knight in a crestfallen state of grief. Shovel Knight even dreams of her coming to her rescue every night as he sleeps by the fire, an interactive psychological facet of how losing her haunts him. The impetus that stimulated Shovel Knight out of his rut is the formation of the “Order of the No Quarter:” a coalition of rogue knights under the leadership of the Enchantress, who have used their position of power to corrupt the land and put it’s governable status at an imbalance. Shovel Knight’s comeback is a valiant quest for justice and to retrieve his life partner, and it’s going to be especially daunting as his first solo effort. At its center, Shovel Knight’s plot is not only the oldest of heroic narrative arcs, but it's also one of the most common premises in 8-bit video games (Mario, Zelda, etc.) However, the fact that Shovel Knight’s lack of confidence without his partner subverts the trope of the herculean savior who seems a little too capable on his quest to save a girl whose relationship to him isn’t entirely motivated by sex. It adds a layer of depth to the tired hero’s journey arc and the hero/damsel in distress roles.

Shovel Knight’s 8-bit influences step beyond the aspects of gameplay and aesthetics. I’ve briefly mentioned the tinges of Castlevania and DuckTales, but Shovel Knight’s inspiration stretches beyond only those few NES titles. Once Shovel Knight finishes the first stage, the map layout of the land will signify the extent of how much Shovel Knight scrounges up from the NES’s rich tapestry. The world map sees an icon of Shovel Knight moving around a series of lines that connect to the pronounced areas of interest. As Shovel Knight progresses on his quest, the ominous fog, most likely a byproduct of the Enchantresses' toxic influence, blows eastward until her foreboding fortress is revealed. The next section of the map is unlocked in increments of three, subtly establishing a difficulty curve that comes with progress. Immediately, the map’s design should signal a sense of deja vu because it strongly resembles the way in which Super Mario Bros. 3’s individual worlds are structured. The differences between Shovel Knight and Super Mario Bros. 3’s maps are more than similarities in the visual department. Among the main levels across the map are places of interest that transport Shovel Knight to quaint little urban settlements reminiscent of the offroad towns from Zelda II. Instead of arriving at these old-world burroughs to plunge his proverbial shovel into the town’s elegant wenches to restore his health and magic, Shovel Knight peruses the various wares to aid him on his mission. What else would the truckload of shiny jewelry that Shovel Knight finds in the levels be used for? Shovel Knight can pay to increase his magic at a witch’s cauldron, and increase the maximum capacity of his health by trading in a meal ticket to a cook seated next to the witch. A blacksmith situated the next town over can craft a colorful collection of armor, whose attributes are more varied than increasing general defense. Shovel Knight can finance the business aspirations of a group of entrepreneurs inside a hat store, and trade in music sheets to an excitable bard for a small sum of money. Neither the map or the integration of village pit stops are wholly original, but the combination of both adds interest to Super Mario Bros. 3’s map, while the grid-based map adds a level of organization to the overworld in Zelda II.

Shovel Knight’s makeup is a tasteful mix of many NES games, but its primary influence is evidently Mega Man. Besides their armors sharing the same ocean hue, the blue bomber’s impact is seen in Shovel’s Knight main level design. Like each Mega Man game, Shovel Knight’s levels are themed after elements relative to the coinciding boss that our hero faces at the end. Because the Knights are as an eclectic bunch as the Robot Masters of each Mega Man game, the player can expect the levels to exude the same amount of diversity in both the aesthetics and in level obstacles. The gothic stage of the Spectre Knight sees sections of total darkness with nothing but Shovel’s Knight silhouette as a visual frame of reference. The volcanic, underground caverns of Mole Knight’s stage have asymmetrical platforms made of igneous rock whose volatile properties ignite a chain reaction of decimation like a lit fuse which Shovel Knight must pay attention to. Some themes and their features like the underwater buoyancy test in Treasure Knight’s stage and the moving conveyor belt platforms in Tinker Knight’s stage are more directly taken from specific Mega Man stages, but Shovel Knight’s advantage of being on more powerful hardware allows these tropes to flesh out longer levels with more pronounced environments. Add the paused scrolling (with quicker frames) for good measure and Shovel Knight exudes the same standard of pulse-pounding action that made Mega Man so appealing.

The bosses themselves are also something Shovel Knight stripped from Mega Man’s notebook. Besides the way in which their encounters come across at the pinnacle of their themed levels, the fact that Shovel Knight shares the same title surname as they do makes the connection all too obvious. Similarly to how Shovel Knight’s advantages flesh out the levels, the same treatment is given to the bosses. At each boss encounter, Shovel Knight engages in a theatrical bout of venomous verbiage with them, biting his thumb at them with great contempt for their patronage to the evil Enchantress. Not ones to take Shovel’s Knight’s caustic tongue lightly, each knight acerbically responds in a myriad of ways. The King Knight is a foppish coward who usurped the throne of the land’s king to raise his entitled ego. The Propeller Knight is a romantic sky chaser with a vaguely French inflection. The Plague Knight can’t help but cackle with every sentence, and the fuzzy giant Polar Knight grunts at Shovel Knight with frost-bitten stoicism. There are also the bosses Shovel Knight faces on the map that are also brimming with personality, namely the Black Knight; a Protoman-type rival of Shovel Knight’s who is the Enchantresses most valued puppet. Their admirable level of character depth is also accentuated by more involved battles that include multiple phases. Mole Knight will burrow into every angle of dirt to catch Shovel Knight by surprise, while Spectre Knight will turn off the lights after a certain point to veil himself and his giant scythe. My favorite boss in this regard is Tinker Knight, who is the only boss whose multiple phases have two different health bars. The pathetic wrench tossing of the geeky shrimp is meant to lull the player into underestimating his might, as he brings out his colossal, cyberpunk mech as his second phase that could mirror one of the bosses from a section of dr. Wily’s castle. The knights of Shovel Knight are more fleshed out and interesting than the plain Robot Masters of Mega Man who vault over Mega Man’s head with their blank expressions.

Getting to the bosses shouldn’t be a taxing excursion, for Shovel Knight dials down the difficulty of a typical NES title to accommodate a modern audience. With standard damage, Shovel Knight’s health bar can take the brunt of most enemies' attacks with minimal knockback compared to the dramatism of Simon Belmont. The common casualties of bottomless pits and spikes that litter the screens of the hardest NES games are still here, but it’s the penalty leniency that separates Shovel Knight from its influences. Checkpoints are implemented regularly as reference points of progression, and all Shovel Knight loses upon dying is an amount of money subtracted by his total. The money is even represented by floating sacks of varying size, and can be retrieved. To most NES enthusiasts, this soft penalty signals a lack of respect for the “NES hard” standard that made the early eras of gaming invigorating. Fortunately, I have good news for all of the detractors. The player can make Shovel Knight much harder by smashing the glass orb and claiming the treasure inside, sacrificing that checkpoint for the remainder of the level. The player has the choice to levy their skill and play accordingly, and it’s a brilliant trade off.

Even for inexperienced players who would rather not take that risk, the difficulty curve eventually catches up to every player in the end with finally approaching the Enchantress. Like Dr. Wily’s Castle, the witch’s towering domain serves as a climactic trek to the final boss with their own sublevels to exude the immense scale of the architecture. The Tower of Fate is also substantially harder than any of the knight’s levels, appropriately fitting for the finale of the game. Every section includes the hardest of level tropes seen across the previous levels such as the scaling ascension in Tinker Knight’s stage and the shadowy inflection of Spectre Knight’s. Shovel Knight fights a physically corrupted version of Black Knight, who is harder than any of the regular ones. In Mega Man tradition, there is also a boss gauntlet involving a randomized roulette of the other bosses in the scene of them sitting at a round table. Shovel Knight has the ability to fully heal between rounds, and is given a choice to save all the knights from plummeting to their untimely deaths. I chose to lend them a hand because I liked them as characters, something I would feel apathetic about if a crew of Robot Masters were in the same dire situation. The Enchantress fight that caps off the adventure involves working with Shield Knight to conquer her, and it’s here where their powerful relationship is put to the test in action other than a narrative component. Shield Knight ultimately sacrifices herself to save both Shovel Knight and Black Knight in his moment of clarity, which makes for a much more emotionally resonating ending than leaving destitute Dr. Wily on his knees.

Shovel Knight is the greatest NES game that was never released on the system. Even in the case of Super Mario Bros. 3, the undisputed champion of the era, Shovel Knight still blows it out of the water. I suppose it still isn’t fair to compare because Shovel Knight is sprinting on a path that was paved with painstaking effort by its godfathers, and is wearing airtight tennis shoes as opposed to the uncomfortable wooden clogs that the others were forced to wear. If Shovel Knight doesn’t credit Mega Man, Zelda II, and Super Mario after it wins first prize, it should be booed and pelted by rotten tomatoes. Of course, Shovel Knight already shows a heavy amount of respect and gratitude in the overall product. Shovel Knight is so tight, fluid, varied, pretty, and fun that I can’t imagine an older gamer sticking their nose up at it or a younger gamer having difficulties. Shovel Knight is not nostalgia bait because even with the thickest of rose-tinted glasses, any experience playing a game on the NES was never this solid.
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Erockthestrange 2017-07-21T19:14:47Z
2017-07-21T19:14:47Z
9.0
2
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This is an indie darling for a reason: it's a great throwback to retro platformers like Mario 3, the Mega Man series, and Castlevania that manages to blend and iterate on said influences to the point where it so much more its own thing. Stages are sprawling, tricky (yet never overwhelmingly difficult), and have just enough unique mechanics/setpieces so that everything you see feels fresh while still allowing you to build skill from previous encounters. Boss fights are fun and frenetic, the music is excellent and really helps set the tone and mood for the stages, and the story, for what's otherwise a very simple "beat the evil Dr Wahwee and his eight robot masters" setup has a surprising amount of pathos and a genuine focus on failure and righting your wrongs. I do have misgivings, and they do pull the game down from being excellent — the controls for the pogo attack (which most platforming relies on) are uncomfortable and makes it easy to whiff and die, there's an overuse of bottomless pits and enemies appearing in front of you and knocking you in later on which made those stages really feel cheap — but ultimately... yeah. This is a really well-known-and-loved game for a reason and if you're a fan of this style of platformer at all you're really going to dig this.
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Yugisan 2022-01-07T01:46:57Z
2022-01-07T01:46:57Z
4.0
3
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Preface: this write-up is only for the base game of Shovel Knight, as in all of the content up until Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows' release. I will be writing up various separate reviews for the DLCs as I play them.

Shovel Knight is a passion project to the fullest extent, with healthy nods to at least a dozen classic NES titles - especially Zelda II: The Adventure of Link [リンクの冒険], Castlevania [悪魔城ドラキュラ], Super Mario Bros. 3 [スーパーマリオブラザーズ3], and perhaps most importantly the Mega Man [ロックマン] franchise and DuckTales. The gameplay is centered around two button presses only, feels optimized for a d-pad, and follows a very straightforward, gated level structure. With a couple modern features like autosaving aside, this basically plays like the best NES game ever made.

The best two parts of Shovel Knight are the fantastic controls and level design, which feel completely in sync. The low overall level count produced a non-stop stream of quality, with every single screen feeling well-tested and tightly designed with the level's core mechanics in mind. Each new enemy or platform mechanic is introduced in a safe way and ramps up the difficulty of the challenge iteratively, with the most difficult ganutlets guarding treasure in tucked-away secret areas. I pretty much never felt like I was losing control of Shovel Knight, or that the level was designed in a way that was unfair. Each main stage has a copious amount of secrets to find and treasures to collect, and a really fun boss fight to close it.

SK also has an item system that works similarly to the item collection in Simon's Quest, where you'll buy them from a shop and then can use them in stages for various effects. There is a simple magic system that is a bit like Casltevania's hearts, that limit abuse of these items especially during boss fights. They often double as weapons and utilities, but none of them ever felt over-powered in combat scenarios (outside of the the Phase Locket), and even with the ones that increase your mobility, you can't just Rush-boost through a room. For the WiiU version specifically, the gamepad works as a sort of quick-select for subweapons, though I never was so good that I was able to use this setup effectively. The game is pretty tough in some spots, though I'm not sure it's as difficult as any of its inspirations, mostly because of how far we've come in terms of player control since the late 1980s.

There is also no life system, an antiquated piece of game design that I have written a lot about hating because gates content based on a "streak" of good play. Instead, you lose a percentage of your money and have a chance to retrieve it if you return to your place of death. Not all money bags are retrievable, but this option is significantly more player-friendly, especially when compounded by the checkpoint breaking mechanic, where checkpoints can be permanently destroyed for a bit of coin. So if you're confident, you can bumrush through the stage with the hopes of returning a greater fortune. I will say that I never once found this necessary, since there was not a lot to buy and there was plenty of treasure to discover, but it's an interesting player decision that rewards multiple playstyles.

Aesthetically, I enjoyed pretty much everything the game had to offer. Aside from a much deeper color palette, the art direction is charming and well-drawn. The animation is kept simple to great effect, and the retro "cutscenes" like the King Troupple dance feel period-appropriate (and adorable). That said, the star of the presentation is without a doubt the ridiculously good chiptune soundtrack by Jake Kaufman and Manami Matsumae. Melodically it's just out of this world from front to back, with over a dozen immediately classic tracks that I was humming for days after playing. The soundtrack has an emphasis on immediate tone-setting, which is great because the game flips between a campy adventure and an emotional journey pretty quickly, not to spoil much about the plot. This is a strong contender for best soundtrack of 2014, period, and it's listenable outside of the game with little effort.

After finally getting around to it in 2019, I feel kind of silly for waiting half a decade to jump on the bandwagon. This game is insanely well-designed in just about every aspect - I genuinely don't really know where to critique it. The only things that really stick out to me are some in-game economy imbalances not really requiring the player to take the risks the game presents, the Troupple ichors being obviously unbalanced in favor of the Ichor of Renewal, and NG+ changing extremely little about the game besides turning wall chicken into bombs. Outside of that, I fail to see what Shovel Knight does not accomplish in the scope of its vision.
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the_lockpick 2019-01-06T23:57:50Z
2019-01-06T23:57:50Z
4.5
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Catalog

Foppishcrow Shovel Knight 2024-04-23T18:36:46Z
2024-04-23T18:36:46Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
tbuck Shovel Knight 2024-04-23T00:01:46Z
2024-04-23T00:01:46Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
matheusf Shovel Knight 2024-04-20T21:00:16Z
2024-04-20T21:00:16Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mrmoptop2 Shovel Knight 2024-04-20T19:41:16Z
Wii U • XNA
2024-04-20T19:41:16Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
jakefewx Shovel Knight 2024-04-20T01:56:23Z
2024-04-20T01:56:23Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
slothrop77 Shovel Knight 2024-04-18T08:55:49Z
2024-04-18T08:55:49Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
polland Shovel Knight 2024-04-15T13:12:26Z
2024-04-15T13:12:26Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
reshader Shovel Knight 2024-04-14T20:21:24Z
Wii U
2024-04-14T20:21:24Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
KCharbzz98 Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove 2024-04-13T05:04:23Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2024-04-13T05:04:23Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bing_bong_barl Shovel Knight 2024-04-12T19:39:41Z
2024-04-12T19:39:41Z
4.5
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
orchidcnr Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove 2024-04-11T05:16:45Z
Switch
2024-04-11T05:16:45Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
orchidcnr Shovel Knight 2024-04-11T05:16:34Z
2024-04-11T05:16:34Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
1-2 players
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Cooperative
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Also known as
  • ショベルナイト
  • Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
  • Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope
  • View all [3] Hide

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  • Previous comments (13) Loading...
  • Aysenthesys 2022-10-11 22:19:22.718768+00
    Pretty good. It borrows perhaps too much from classic paltformers, in a way that doesn't really feel very fresh. Still had a lot of fun.
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  • Metal_Ganon 2023-06-21 01:54:11.357932+00
    Shovel of Hope is meh. Levels feel too long with quite a disparity in quality from section to section, and the lack of pit recovery (something all other campaigns have) make some of the more annoying sections get replayed quite a bit. Also, SK's base moveset is boring, with the abilities being either broken or useless.
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  • Gayvyn 2023-06-23 21:44:22.942396+00
    How is this below 4 💀
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  • thesoyman 2023-06-24 15:40:03.069258+00
    this game is kinda really fucking good
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  • LellePolis 2023-09-10 12:23:51.555884+00
    This game has kinda bad controls and i will forever die on this hill
    reply
    • Drawdler 2023-10-15 15:05:00.771659+00
      I love this game but i can see where ur coming from
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  • Potis 2024-02-05 22:45:04.472155+00
    Very cute and fun, some of the levels are a bit tedious but overall a very well rounded game!
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  • amazonmouse 2024-04-12 23:42:32.345209+00
    the gameplay sucks
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