Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 03, 2017
Yacht Club games wants to take you back. Back in time. To a time where side-scrolling platformers ruled the living room space. A time where these same games would make you want to throw your controller through the window! Yacht Club Games have created something truly special for the fans that appreciate the days of gaming yore.
Shovel Knight is a side-scrolling platform action adventure game that has you playing as the ever so adorable Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight is on a quest for revenge, on a mission to defeat the evil Enchantress to save his beloved. The game features 8-Bit graphics and resembles games from the golden era of gaming. It’s clear that the developers drew heavy influence from the classic Castlevania and Mega Man games from the early 90’s. The soundtrack and sound effects used in Shovel Knight are also reminiscent of that same era.
Gameplay in Shovel Knight is just as you would expect it to be for a side-scrolling platform game. The controls work and feel incredibly well, which is key for a game like this that requires precise movement and timing. The controls aren’t overly complicated and only rely on a few button inputs. Your basic commands are going to be; attack, jump, and move. That’s it, nothing too difficult. Yacht Club Games saved the difficulty for the actual gameplay. Just as you would expect from a game like Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden, Shovel Knight is a title that gets increasingly difficult, but yields tons of satisfaction when you topple a foe that you have been battling for an hour.
One of the best things that Shovel Knight does to lessen the blow of defeat is the checkpoint system. Rather than save your progress when you enter a certain area of a level, Shovel Knight gives you two options. Option one is to touch the checkpoint globe, which will allow you to respawn from upon death; for a small fee of course. Option two is for the more risky and ballsy player. Option two allows you to smash the checkpoint globe, which grants you some extra cash. The only downside of smashing these globes, which I had to find out the hard way, is that you can’t respawn from that globe if you die. Instead, you have to respawn from the previous checkpoint globe, assuming you didn’t smash it to hell.
The option to have two different ways of handling checkpoints is a nice addition, as it rewards skilled players with some extra cash for taking that risk. On the other side of that coin, newer players won’t feel discouraged as they can use all of the checkpoints in a level as they choose. On a side note, the checkpoint globes must be hit three times before they break. This helps a lot as you wont find yourself accidentally breaking them.
Each stage in Shovel Knight has a Boss at the end. If you are familiar with the old Mega Man games, you will see some commonalities here. The stages all have their own unique theme. The Bosses at the end of the stage share this same theme. If you are in a fire themed stage, you can bet your humble bumble behind that the Boss at the end of the stage will utilize fire in some way, shape, or form. Navigating from stage to stage is very similar to that of Super Mario Bros. 3. The world map allows you to pick your path from stage to stage, but does lock a few areas until a certain foe is defeated.
Certain areas in the game allow you to purchase armor upgrades and weapon upgrades. These all come at a pretty hefty price, so you will want to make sure that what you are purchasing is something that you truly need. Health and Magic upgrades can also be purchased. I found myself dumping tons of coin into the Health upgrades. Whatever upgrade path you choose to take, Shovel Knight’s upgrade system is there for you.
Overall, Shovel Knight is great example of how a retro style game should be done. Completing the game will take you roughly 8-9 hours, but a New Game+ mode opens up once you do so. Mixing beautiful art, classic chiptune sounds, and throwback gameplay, Shovel Knight enters the arena as one of the best platformers ever created. Although the difficulty can be intimidating at times, I don’t feel that it should drive away players looking for an old-school platform game. If you are looking for a classic style platformer, Shovel Knight may be the game you are looking for.