In an age where games continue to push the limits of graphical possibilities, indie developers have managed to revitalize retro style games over the last few years. Shovel Knight was certainly a shining example of this retro prowess that has re-emerged in the industry when it released for Wii U, 3DS, and PC last year. Expanding to nearly every modern platform, Shovel Knight is as good as ever with some of the best classic platforming available right now.
Yacht Club Games set out to make a game that was representative of the 8-bit era and Shovel Knight does not disappoint. The graphics and music are just as they were in the initial release, but there really isn’t much that could have been improved on in that department. The gorgeous old school graphics and addictive soundtrack expertly define that generation and it truly feels like they could have come straight off of a NES cartridge.
Shovel Knight offers a very different type of experience from the norm in today’s gaming landscape, mainly due to its connections to the past. The best 8-bit classics still manage to hold up today and some of the most well respected of the bunch can definitely be seen represented throughout this game. Rather than relying too much on the games of old, Yacht Club Games manages to provide gamers with something that is greatly inspired by a variety of NES games, while also still feeling very unique.
Players will be in control of the title character Shovel Knight, who naturally has a shovel that is multipurpose. Simple short range attacks are possible, but most useful is the Shovel Drop ability that allows the use of the shovel to bounce on enemies and obstacles. This feels very similar to that of Scrooge McDuck in Ducktales, with the shovel replacing the pogo stick. Jumping over spikes is not possible this way, but the ability to use it as a weapon on the ground sets it apart from similar styles.
One of the most crucial elements of any platformer is control and Shovel Knight is the very definition of expert handling. The tight controls allow players to traverse through stages across numerous jumps without too much problem, thankfully with a total lack of floaty physics.
The stage selection, while setup just like the overworld of Super Mario Bros. 3, actually is very reminiscent of the Mega Man series. Across four sectors of the map, you will come upon eight different members of the Order of No Quarter, each with their own stage. Unlike Mega Man however, these eight knights do not provide one with a new weapon, but rather the stages themselves hide what are known as Relics in different places, making exploration vital to fully experience everything. It is pretty disappointing that you can just buy these Relics after the fact from the Village, but old school gamers will probably just aim to find them in the stages instead.
The Relics have a nice variety of abilities, some that aren’t even used in combat. The Mobile Gear for example is used to get over beds of spikes that are found all over the map. The ability to switch between them at will is very easy as well, making combat all the more smooth.
One of the most iconic aspects of the 8-bit era was the level of difficulty found throughout and that is one of Shovel Knight’s few drawbacks, at least at the start. Many of the aforementioned games required players to play through again and again to master the layout, but Shovel Knight almost feels too easy in that manner. Even if you die, you can get your gold, which allows you to be revived at the last checkpoint, again as long as you make it back to the same screen you died. This makes bosses a breeze, as you will essentially have endless opportunities at each one without any concerns of losing.
truly feels it they could have come straight off of a NES cartridge
However, this is mostly solved by the difficulty found in New Game Plus, which makes the checkpoints much more sparse and the enemies much more difficult among other changes. Shovel Knight should have at least had a way to switch to a higher difficulty from the start, without the use of a code, plus an even more intense version available after completing the game.
Shovel Knight is essentially the exact same game that released last year on other platforms, but the implementation of cross-buy and cross-save between all three PlayStation platforms makes this all the better. This game works just as well on the Vita as it does on PlayStation 4, making the switch between games as easy as it gets.
The one actual in-game addition to Shovel Knight on PlayStation platforms is that of one of Sony’s mascots, Kratos. Featured as essentially a secret boss, Kratos is a very short two part boss battle that is a great deal of fun. Upon defeating Kratos, you will even be able to make an upgrade to your shovel that gives it a little more range. It would have been nice to have seen Kratos playable or used a little more, but that is more nitpicking than anything else.
Shovel Knight continued the trend of incredibly well crafted and well received indie titles in its release last year and is every bit as fun as it was then. Inspired by numerous classic games, Shovel Knight still manages to dig up its own distinct identity that makes the game worth playing again and again. While the game is essentially the same this time around, only seeing the addition of a Kratos boss fight, it just means another segment of the gaming community has the opportunity to play this fantastic love letter to the 8-bit era.
- Available On: PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, 3DS, PC
- Published By: Yacht Club Games
- Developed By: Yacht Club Games
- Genre: Action- Platformer
- US Release Date: April 21st, 2015
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Capturing the spirit of the past, Shovel Knight once again shines on PlayStation platforms with one of the best platformers in recent years, made even better with the inclusion of cross-buy."
- Feels like a true retro game
- Controls beautifully
- Fun mix of classic NES elements
- Cross-buy and cross-save
- Base difficulty could be higher