Shovel Knight is a tragic little indie game. Shield Knight, Shovel Knight’s lover, is stricken down, leaving SK alone. Living in solitude, SK comes out of the darkness once the kingdom falls under evil hands. Armed with his trusty shovel and a hope that his beloved is still alive, SK marches forth. There’s not much of a plot beyond this setup. However, the interactions between villagers and bosses flesh the game’s narrative out in both comical and haunting ways. There’s just enough there to piece everything together.
Everything about this game is homage to dozens of other NES classics: Mega Man, Duck Tales, Super Mario 3, etc. While SK borrows from many genres, it also evolves those mechanics beyond what other indie titles have tried in the past. To elaborate, here’s the rundown. Shovel Knight goes from stage to stage, fighting baddies and collecting treasure while vanquishing a new boss. Said treasure can be spent on upgrades like for magic, health, armor, and so forth. Items can also be acquired in levels that’ll either help in combat, or with traversal. It may be short, but the inclusion of New Game Plus along with numerous secrets in every stage make Shovel Knight so addictive. It’s care and dedication to itself and the classics make it a standout phenomenon.
To evaluate further on the art style, well, it’s gorgeous. Made like an 8-bit game with just a bit more prowess, the colors, animations, and overall design is astounding. And what good would a retro styled game be without amazing music, which Shovel Knight has in spades. The fault of some other indie games is that they tried and to capture the essence of retro hits by making them extremely difficult as if that was what made them good. Shovel Knight, on the other hand, while providing a decent challenge, also balances the game perfectly. Gameplay is key and it’s as solid as SK’s armor.
Shovel Knight looked like an amazing game from the outset. The game took awhile to release, but this writer can now safely say it was worth it. Yacht Club Games crafted a delicious homage to the classics, while making itself an instant treasure in the process. Again, it’s short, and the price of $15 may be a bit high, but every second spent with SK is a dream come true. No regrets. Just love.
Score: 5/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on July 1, 2014 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.