I fucking love Shovel Knight!
Not only is it a game that lived up to the massive hype that preceded it, but also one of the few that I’ve played in the past few years in which I had to stop myself mid-game, and process just how much fun I was having. I don’t like using the term “perfect” when describing a game, because no game is really flawless – but Shovel Knight is probably the closest thing to a perfect game I’ll ever get to play.
During the Rebel Roundtable: Our Favourite Video Game Trailers, I briefly touched upon what I enjoyed about the game, based on my expectations from the trailer. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to write a proper review, because I think the game deserves one.
Shovel Knight was developed by Yacht Club Games after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, proving that you can accomplish something useful with crowd funding – other than potato salads. While originally released for the PC via Steam, it got ported to every current-gen console and handheld. Some of these ports got sweet bonuses, such as the option to fight the Battletoads on the Xbox One version. As a sucke…I mean, well-researched consumer, I bought several of these ports, and enjoyed them all immensely.
As the eponymous Shovel Knight, your duty is to traverse the land, fighting monsters, digging up treasure, and stopping the Knights of the Order of No Quarter as you make your way to the Tower of Fate, so that you can put an end to the Enchantress’ tyranny. You are also risking life and limb, hoping to figure out what happened to your friend, Shield Knight, who disappeared the last time you entered the Tower of Fate.
On your journey, you will encounter some delightfully odd characters. One such character is the Troupple King, who looks like a fish crossbred with an apple. His purpose is to dance for you, and give you magic ichors (potions) to aid in your quest. Another one of my favourites is Croaker, a talking frog who is a master of puns.
This game is a lot of fun because the controls are tight and very responsive. Shovel Knight moves at just the right pace – not too slow or too fast. I have fallen into pits, but those were errors on my part, typically when I misjudged the distance to a ledge, or I forgot to mind those enemies with propellers. I will admit that the water physics are a bit wonky – not so much because you can jump higher (Mega Man also could in the same environment), more so because your movement isn’t really hindered all that much. I do love how you can use the shovel as a pogo stick to bounce off enemies, and reach high ledges.
Instead of relying on lives, Shovel Knight will penalize you when you die by taking a portion of your gold. You are given the chance to get your gold back that you lost…unless you die again before obtaining it – then it’s gone forever. I have actually lost gold permanently in my many playthroughs, and every time it was extremely frustrating.
Every piece of music in this game is excellent, and each one complements the stage where they are placed perfectly. For example, while you are diving into the depths of the Iron Whale, the music conveys a feeling of sunken exploration, coupled with a dreaded unseen threat from the deep, waiting to strike! My favourite is “High Above the Land,” because it’s so energetic and uplifting; seeing as how this track plays when you’re climbing an airship, it’s very appropriate.