For Shovel Justice!

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Shovel Knight

Title Screen

Take fun mechanics, good level design, charming 8-bit graphics and a shovel-wielding warrior, throw them in a blender and you’ll get Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight.

You play as the noble Shovel Knight who, after losing his partner, Shield Knight, becomes disheartened and quits adventuring. The rise of the evil Enchantress spurs him back to action. But before he can reach her, he must defeat The Order of No Quarter; eight knights who pledged their loyalty to the Enchantress.

Defend yourself with your shovel!

The game takes inspiration from NES classics like Mega Man and Castlevania and turns it into a fresh and unique platformer. You make your way through each stage killing enemies while gathering treasure. Reach the end and you’ll fight its boss.

Each level is a well-crafted obstacle course that has something new to offer. One moment you’re riding a giant beetle through lava, the next you’re on an airship bouncing on cannonballs. There’s always something new to look forward to.

Like Mega Man games, there are eight bosses to beat before you reach the final stages. Each is uniquely designed. There’s King Knight, who fancies himself a King and surrounds himself with gold and other manners of luxury, and Spectre Knight, a ghostly, hooded figure who rules the graveyard, to name a few. They all have different fighting styles and patterns, forcing you to strategize and make good use of the games relics.

The fishing rod relic can be used to fish out healing items and treasure.

Relics are sub-weapons that require magic to be used. Each has different uses like making you invincible for a short time or allowing you to fly over large pits. There are some optional levels centered around them. These require their constant use to complete and is a great way to help you understand how and when to use them.

You can also improve Shovel Knight by gathering treasure to purchase upgrades. These include increasing your maximum health and magic, learning new shovel skills or getting new sets of armor. Each set is a different color and has its own special property, from increasing your magic to just literally making you shinier.

Aside from the main game, there are side quests which include collecting all the music sheets scattered throughout the world. Bringing these to the town’s musician will let him play songs from the game’s soundtrack. There are also some traveling warriors that appear on the map. Moving to their spot will trigger a boss battle.

The 8-bit aesthetic looks great and is more than a throwback to classic games. The sprites are detailed enough and the colors work well. Each stage has an appropriate color palette to fit its theme. It’s like they took the 8-bit style and pushed it to its limits.

Polar Knight’s stage.

The music, done in the chiptune style of old games, sounds fantastic. Composed by Jake Kaufman with contributions from Manami Matsumae (who composed music for the original Mega Man), each track compliments every level’s theme. Music for boss fights are upbeat to match the fast-paced nature each battle.

Looking at its number of stages, Shovel Knight might seem like a short game. But with each level’s challenges as well as getting every music sheet, relic and upgrade, you’ll be playing for a while. Also, beating the game unlocks New Game +, which lets you play through it all over again on a higher difficulty but with all your relics and upgrades intact. And if that’s not enough, there are numerous achievements (known as feats) you can try to get, from simply buying an item to beating the entire game without dying.

Shovel Knight is more than a dose of nostalgia; it’s a fun game that holds its own among the more realistic-looking games of today. The developers obviously put a lot of thought (and love!) into crafting this title. If you’re looking for a fresh, fun and challenging game to keep you hooked for hours on end, look no further. Grab your shovel and dig into Shovel Knight!

Rating: 5/5

All screenshots were from Yacht Club Games’ official website:

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