Shovel Knight is a 2D platformer that is simple, charming and has a nice dose of challenge. This game takes inspiration from some classic side-scroller adventure and platformer games, crafting its own identity.
You’re Shovel Knight, in search for your beloved travel friend, Shield Knight. You’ve been out of the scene for a few years and now the Evil Enchantress and the Order of No Quarter have taken over the land. With your trusty weapon, the Shovel, you will set things straight.
The game has the retro feeling of picking up an NES game, without being as unforgiving as some of those classics. The world map is divided into stages similar to Super Mario World 3. It is just one map and you uncover more and more of it as you keep progressing through each stage.
The stages consist of a side-scrolling dungeon. Each one has its own theme, mechanics and save points. For example, one of them is Fire-themed while another takes place on top of a Castle. You will be guaranteed at least one death through the game, and it is a good thing, because this is the way you learn the game’s laws.
The dungeon has some checkpoints scattered around, in the shape of an orb that lights up as soon as you touch it. These checkpoints can be destroyed if you’d rather to keep the jewel inside but then they become useless and if you fall, you start over from the last working one. At the end of each dungeon you find the boss’s lair.
Everytime you die, three winged sacks of money will levitate near where you perished. The more money you had the bigger they will be. In other words, instead of simply punishing you and taking them away completely it gives you the opportunity to try and recover them; of course if you die trying 3 new will appear and replace whatever sack you didn’t get.
The game has upgrades and a few items to offer, however they made sure that your main weapon remains the Shovel.
The music is nicely selected to go along with the different areas and situations in the game. You can even collect “sheet notes” to be able to listen to any of them whenever you like. One of the music pieces I loved is the overworld one. It seems simple but as you progress with your story and draw closer to the Tower of Fate the music has subtle changes to make it sound more ominous.
The difficulty lies mostly in your imperfections and rarely in dungeon design. You need a steady arm and an assertive play style to survive some of the challenging levels but once you find the flow you can get across. There is not a ridiculous challenge that you cannot master with some practice, even if at first many of them can look quite intimidating.
While the game can definitely be tackled in a day, I think it has an excellent length. It is not very short and the ending is, in my humble opinion, quite fitting. If you are curious, you should definitely give this a go.