Shovel Knight was one of the few Kickstarter games that actually got funded and released during the Kickstarter frenzy a couple of years ago. Kickstarting games was an excellent way for indie developers to create games and grow as companies by collecting the necessary funds from the community. Many small and unknown developers saw this opportunity and set up a Kickstarter, but not all succeeded. But Shovel Knight had to be the biggest success. It had been donated $311, 502 and hit shelves on June 26th 2014. But, is this game actually any good? Let’s find out!
The game is a NES inspired 2D platformer, but updated for modern advancements in the genre and games in general. The aesthetic is very reminiscent of NES titles as a whole, but is brought up to date with higher resolutions, more colours, and a less dated feel. It is done very well, as it stays very faithful to its inspiration.
The sound design is also spot on, keeping with the retro feel, but also making the sounds more crisp and clear with modern technology. The sound effects are full of impact also, making you feel just like you’re the Shovelknight himself. Oh, and the music, the MUSIC! It has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Not only is it really good in its own right, it is also amazingly crafted to fit with every stage and fight it’s put in. My personal favourite is ‘Strike the Earth’, the level 1 music. Not only is it a musical hype train, it really makes you feel like you’re off on an adventure.
But all that doesn’t really matter if the gameplay sucks, right? Well, I think so, and I have to say, Shovel Knight plays amazingly well. It controls perfectly, your shovel swings (or digs, I guess) are precise, and the fall speed is spot on. Any death is almost never due to unfair circumstances or control issues, it’s always your fault – which is a good thing, of course. Speaking of which, this isn’t an easy game. Don’t worry, it isn’t Dark Souls hard, but you will die at least once on each stage, especially later on. However, the difficulty curve throughout the game is good. I do think that the final boss is a massive difficulty spike, and I actually haven’t beaten it yet, but I guess that’s how some final bosses are. Oh, you should probably know, I suck at the game.
Anyways, aside from that, It seems to train you very well throughout the stages, getting gradually harder and harder. Also, the game doesn’t throw in artificial difficulty, like a room with loads of random enemies for no reason. Every level has loads of care put into it, with clever design made to make the game hard because of tricky platforming or clever enemy placement, and not thoughtless swarms and such forth. Oh, and the bosses. Each unique and with character, they are one of the game’s strongest points. My favourite is Propeller Knight, as his boss battle is tense, and he has an almost French feel to his character. As well as this amazing level design, there are also lots of secrets in the game, for gems, Ichors and Items; all are cleverly hidden away, and take some looking, skill and pre-planning to get to — further proving the developers’ clever design.
Well, yes, it looks, sounds and plays amazing, but is there enough to warrant a purchase? The answer to that, my friend, is definitely. Without a doubt. The game is around £12 (or your regional equivalent) depending on what platform you buy it for, and if any sales are on, and the main story is of a reasonable size when you consider the game’s price. It doesn’t have tons of content, but it has enough, especially considering that Yacht Club has released a free DLC pack, called Plague of Shadows, where you play as Plague Knight. It is nearly as big as the main game, so I won’t cover it now, it could have a whole review of it’s own – lucky you (sort of)!
The games only weakness seems to be the story, which is very standard. Save Shield Knight. Whereas they do spice it up at the end, in a quite subtle way I only figured out quite late, the overall story is quite cliché. But in a platformer, I don’t think it is 100% required.
To summarise: Shovel Knight is one of 2014’s best releases and one of the 3DS’ best games, and definitely deserves to see its own franchise flourish. Amazing sound design, art style, level design, controls, content, it’s all here. It’s only hindered by a cliché story and a crazy final boss – but I guess I just suck… If you want a platformer, and a challenge, go to knight, you won’t regret it!
Insert phrase of comedic value here.