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Shovel Knight (Video Game Review)

Shovel Knight is a new game from indie developer Yacht Club Games that has been released for Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC following a successful Kickstarter campaign. The new game features retro inspired gameplay, level design, graphics and soundtrack but is a fun enough title to be a great play for older and younger gamers alike. Shovel Knight can be described as an action platformer akin to the classic Mega Man series, as players battle their way through levels while narrowly avoiding falling to instant death. Awaiting at the end of each level is a special boss that the player must defeat in order to move on to the next challenge. There are plenty of secrets and unique elements that sets Shovel Knight apart from any other game though, and it's one of the best new downloadable games available on any platform.

The story of Shovel Knight takes players to a fantasy land where two warriors named Shovel Knight and Shield Knight once fought side by side and were the most powerful adventurers around. While exploring the Tower of Fate, a dark magic is released that badly wounds Shovel Knight and leaves Shield Knight nowhere to be found. Shovel Knight is hit hard by the grief of losing his beloved and gives up adventuring. A powerful sorceress known as the Enchantress shows up some time after and begins unleashing chaos on the entire realm and spurs Shovel Knight out of retirement to once again seal up the Tower of Fate. The plot featured in Shovel Knight is pretty basic, and there isn't a lot of character development and other storyline elements for much of the game, but the new game picks up near the end of the game and really leaves players fully satisfied by the game's storyline by the time the end credits roll.

Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platformer that takes inspiration from a number of classic video games including most notably, the Mega Man series. Players fight their way through levels using a shovel to swing at enemies directly in front of Shovel Knight, and the fighter can also use downward thrusts to hit enemies from the air. Later in the game, Shovel Knight will learn new moves through obtaining Relics that hold powerful magic spells such as fireballs and temporary invincibility. Shovel Knight can also purchase statistic upgrades, weapon upgrades and armor upgrades. In this way, Shovel Knight feels a bit like classic Metroid and Castlevania games with a real sense of progression for the main character throughout the new title.

Boss battles are one of the biggest contributors to making Shovel Knight such a brilliant game. Each boss battle is unique and challenging for different reasons. Learning how to combat each boss enemy is very fun, and the design of each boss battle is top notch. One cool thing Shovel Knight does with its boss battles revolves around the previously discussed relics. Rather than having Shovel Knight unlock his new abilities for each stage after defeating a boss, see Mega Man, players will find a merchant hidden in every level that will offer a new move for sell. Using the move is not typically required to move through each level and defeat the boss at the end of the stage, but it definitely helps and just adds to the great design ideas from Yacht Club Games in the new release.

One key mechanic that helps separate Shovel Knight from other games in the same genre is how Shovel Knight's shovel is used throughout the game. The shovel is the character's main weapon and main source for dealing damage to enemies, but the shovel is also used to dig up treasure and bust blocks needed to solve puzzles or find additional treasure. The shovel is also key in finding many of the secrets in the game that are hidden behind breakable walls. Players will need to search high and low in order to find all of the hidden scrolls, relics and other items scattered throughout Shovel Knight.

Shovel Knight includes a New Game+ mode that is unlocked when players complete the main campaign. Completing bonus levels, extra boss battles and searching out all of the game's secrets will mean players will spend anywhere from 5-8 hours going through the game for the first time, so most players will get enough time out of the game to make it worth a purchase. The game's tough difficulty also means players will die a lot, and assuming players don't become frustrated and give up on the game, the campaign could last even longer for some. There are tons of Achievements packed into the game as well, though the game refers to the accomplishments as Feats. These add even more replay value to the game, so there is actually a lot more content packed into Shovel Knight than one would expect when seeing the game played for the first time.

Shovel Knight's presentation is packed with inspirations from old school video games. The game itself looks like something ripped straight from the NES and features the same color palette used in those classic games. The overworld contains a map with lines leading to different levels in the game that is nearly identical to that of Super Mario Bros. 3. Shovel Knight also packs an awesome soundtrack with retro sounding themes that really hammer home the classic themed presentation. Shovel Knight's unique aesthetic is one of the game's most charming traits to be sure.

Shovel Knight is an addictive game and is a title that is well worth downloading. The game features fun puzzles, amazing boss battles and a retro feel that few other games can muster up while also maintaining tight controls and fun gameplay. Shovel Knight can be pretty darn funny at times with some creative characters and situations, but the game's ending definitely steals the show. Players will want to muscle through the game's tough difficulty to see what is waiting for them at the end of the game. Shovel Knight is another example of a Kickstarter campaign done right, and players can pick up the game today on Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC.

Shovel Knight is now available for $14.99 and can be purchased on Nintendo eShop and Steam. Shovel Knight is rated E by the ESRB for Mild Fantasy Violence. For more information on the game, check out the official Shovel Knight website.

Game Features:
  • Single Player
  • Tons of Relic Subweapons
  • Old School Inspired Graphics and Gameplay
  • Steam Trading Card Support
  • Achievement Support

Game Information:
Developer & Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platforms: Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS & PC (reviewed)
Release Date: June 26, 2014

Score: 9 out of 10
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