Shovel Knight Review: “Sharpen Thy Shovel”

Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is a game out of its time. Its many familiar mechanics–Mega Man bosses, Zelda II towns, and Castlevania magic–combine under a retro, 8-bit aesthetic to create something both classic and modern.

I haven’t played a game like Shovel Knight for years. I grew up playing Mega Man X games, and after that series went all 3D, I stopped keeping up with the side-scrolling platformer genre all together. Somewhere along the way, in the back of my mind, I convinced myself that I’d “grown out” of those types of games. How wrong I was.

Shovel Knight is a breath of fresh air in a sea of indie games which inexplicably put art before gameplay. Don’t get me wrong–Shovel Knight is a beautiful game, but as you play, you get the sense that its aesthetic is an effect rather than a cause. In making Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games wanted to replay their favorite childhood game, without replaying their favorite childhood game. In other words, they created nostalgia out of Shovel Knight, instead of Shovel Knight out of nostalgia.

The only problem some players may have with Shovel Knight is its difficulty. Players who enjoy a good challenge (those who don’t mind dying repeatedly) will be right at home. Others, who are easily frustrated and/or suck in general at video games (like me) might find it hard sink the teeth into. (Note: I find Shovel Knight rather difficult, but that may be due to the fact that I had just finished Kirby Triple Deluxe before starting it, and God knows that was one of the easiest platformers ever made.)

But it’s all worth it. The sense of accomplishment you get after that fifth, finally successful attempt at a boss is very rewarding. One thing Yacht Club Games did to contribute to the game’s modernity was the addition of “Feats,” a very Xbox Live-esque achievement system.

All in all, Shovel Knight is a masterclass entry into a fading genre–a video game of both past and present. And, judging by its widely positive reception, is indicative of a bright future as well.

Rating: Challenging level design, brilliantly catchy music, and a non-stop nostalgia adventure give Shovel Knight an A-

ASV Scale of Villainy: B
Shovel Knight shall bury you all!!!

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