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.