Shovel Knight Review – Digging Into Awesomeness

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I remember the first time I saw a picture of Yacht Club Games‘ Shovel Knight, and the curiosity that came over me and the sudden urge I had to get my hands on the game and enjoy every aspect of it to the possible amount. It looked like a game from my past that I may had missed out on, and it seemed to have elements from some of the games that make up such fond memories for me. In short, it looked awesome. Now here I am, having completed the game after a wait that felt like an eternity, and I can’t stop smiling like an idiot every time I think of it.

Shovel Knight stars the one and only, totally awesome, Shovel Knight, who is known by that name due to the fact that he is a knight and fights with a shovel. He is also deadly with this tool and quite nearly unmatched with it in battle, and he is wielding it again to do battle against The Order of No Quarter, a league of baddies led by The Enchantress that have all messed with someone dear to Shovel Knight’s heart: Shield Knight.

No amount of opposing force can hold Shovel Knight back from beating all who are to blame, or stand in his way from being reunited with his love. His mission clear, he sets out and travels across the land, ultimately making his way to the Tower of Fate and bringing down the members of The Order of No Quarter aling the way. It is a journey that will cause him to meet a slew of crazy people that will both aid or stand against him on his journey, a journey of a very grand scale.

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There is so much going on in this game. It is insane at times, actually, how exciting it all is, and witnessing everything that can be held within a stage, not to mention the amount of secrets scattered about to find. For me, all of the excitement experienced from games as a kid came flooding back; here was a new world with a new adventure awaiting me, and filled to the brim with places to see and people to meet. Everything from a world map that screams of inspiration from Super Mario 3, to levels and boss fights that are reminiscent of Mega Man, it is a wild ride from start to finish, with and without nods to the nostalgic past of gaming.

Shovel Knight is a piece of beautiful pixelated artwork. Everything is animated superbly, both vibrant and lively, from objects set front and center, to the sprawling landscapes that populate the background. Every character that is come across has detail put into their sprite. Giant creatures – be they friend or foe – look absolutely stunning; every amount of effort put into the aesthetics are of a grand and meticulous scale.

And then there are the levels of the knights of The Order, each with its own theme and challenges. And no one feels the same, either, their personalities are strong and apparent. One area has spikes galore, that requires snow to be knocked down upon them, thus allowing for safe passage, and another may require you to use propellers and gusts of wind to traverse through the stage.

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All of this is backed by some absolutely perfect gameplay. Controls are tight, and the platforming is a joyous endeavor. Everything is set up to be as simple as the olden days, in fact, the digital manual of the game even uses an NES controller for a diagram. The idea works well, as those are all the buttons you need: A D-pad, a button to jump, one to attack, one for inventory, and one to pause. After that, jump in and have fun, or otherwise start beating things to a pulp with a shovel.

Something all games should have are moments where you sit back and think, as a smile comes across your face and you think to yourself, “that part was awesome.” Shovel Knight has no shortage of these moments. Never have I taken as many screenshots of a game as I have with Shovel Knight. Even now, as I write these words, I recall the moments spent with the game – I finished up at around 13 hours at 70% completion – and I want to hop back into the game and experience these moments again.

It is a game with humor and lightheartedness throughout, and epic in nearly every way. The story of Shovel Knight is a fun one and never does it take itself seriously, and yet it has a more heartwarming conclusion than the majority of games that try to awaken one’s emotions. Shovel Knight is pure entertainment, plain and simple. There is never a moment where it feels as though it is trying to be something that it is not, and that is a video game. A very, very awesome video game.

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I actually had to stop and think about what I didn’t enjoy about this game, and there isn’t much. My main complaint is that there isn’t really a penalty for dying, except the loss of money, but that can be regained by returning to the spot of your death – unless you die before reaching it, that is. Money seemed to be abundant and never sparse, and never did I have to do much scrounging when ready to buy the next, new piece of equipment. The other thing is that it could have been more challenging, and while there is a new game plus option that ups the ante, it still isn’t that hard to overcome.

I fell in love with Shovel Knight a year ago, and after finally spending some quality time together, that love has only grown stronger. Shovel Knight is a modern day classic that needs to be held upwards and praised, and enjoyed by all that enjoy a good, fun video game. From start to finish this game is nothing short of enjoyable, packed with memorable moments and characters strewn about it. A great amount of collectibles lie hidden away, and a new game plus also means that there is some nice replayability tucked within as well. That short little knight with a shovel may also just be my new hero.

Shovel Knight is a modern day classic.

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Shovel Knight is available now on Steam, as well as for purchase at its official website – DRM free plus a Steam key. There is a basic edition that comes with the game, and a Deluxe edition that comes packed with the game, a PDF manual, and a PDF artbook. Pricing is $15 and $25, respectively. And for those looking for a more console based experience, the game is available on the Nintendo eShop for both the Wii U and 3DS.

Good Things

  • Gorgeous aesthetics
  • Insanely fun
  • Humorous, lighthearted story
  • Filled to the brim with content

Bad Things

  • No real penalty for dying
  • Could be harder