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April 17, 2017 / Jett

Shovel Knight Review


Not that long ago, I took a work trip to Chicago for a few days. Having beaten The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I was looking for something new to play on the Nintendo Switch during my travels. I know that Shovel Knight isn’t new to many of you, but it’s one that has managed to slip by me since it was released in June 2014. Having played through the main campaign of the Treasure Trove Edition, it’s clear that I’ve been missing out on a brilliant game.

You assume the role of Shovel Knight, whose on a quest to save his beloved Shield Knight who is being held captive at the Tower of Fate. Armed with your trusty shovel, you’ll fight your way back to the tower, collecting treasure, improving your abilities and fighting a myriad of other deadly knights along the way.

In a nutshell, this retro-style platformer is the love child of Mega Man, Zelda 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3. The general platforming action and boss battles that are akin to the Blue Bomber, while the RPG elements of improvement come from Link’s misunderstood sequel. Mario’s influence comes from the overworld that ties everything together. Last but not least, Shovel Knight‘s downward stab is also an obvious nod to Scrooge McDuck’s cane bounce in Ducktales.

Shovel Knight harkens back to a time when the NES was king, but it really benefits from the advent of modern game design and technology. Graphically, the game stays true to its 8-bit art style while pushing past the boundaries that limited how detailed games could look at the time. Retro fans will instantly fall in love with its overall look and the nuances that put it over the top.

Gameplay takes the best cues from classic and modern game design. Shovel Knight is tough but fair. Enemies all have patterns that have to be exploited in order to succeed, especially the brilliant boss battles that feel like a real duel between skilled rivals. Traversing through levels is a blast, as they give you something fun and challenging to engage with at all times.

Unlike Mega Man, these stages are really big. On average, it would take me about 30 minutes per level to complete, with lots of dying along the way. Thankfully, reasonably-spaced checkpoints make backtracking a minor grievance. Using a Dark Souls-like loot drop system when you die is also a nice touch, as it makes players feel more invested in getting back the loot they lost.

If you were like me and have somehow missed Shovel Knight after all of these years, address that hole in your gaming experiences immediately. This is a phenomenal game that takes the best elements of classic and modern game design and blends them together into a wonderful title.

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2 Comments

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  1. The Last Games Writer / Apr 17 2017 1:09 PM

    You’re clearly a fan of the game. On Switch, though, it feels incredibly difficult to justify the £22 price tag for a game of this style – would you say it’s worth that?

    • Jett / Apr 18 2017 7:34 AM

      Thanks for the comment!

      The primary reason for the increased price is that it includes the Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment DLC. The game by itself on Xbox Live is $25 CAD, or 14.78 British Pounds. I’m fine with that price for the main game alone. I think the way the Treasure Trove pricing works is that you’re basically getting all of the game’s content while saving the price of one of the game’s DLC packs.

      So far I’m only a bit into Plague of Shadows and haven’t touched Specter of Torment. My feelings towards Plague of Shadows are mixed due to how different Plague Knight plays compared to Shovel Knight the character. I’m still trucking through it though, and I hear that Specter of Torment is great.

      If cost is a factor, you can certainly buy it on pretty much any other modern console. However, you would lose out on the portability factor, which is how I spent most of my time playing it.

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