Shovel Knight Review: The Best Indie Game of 2014 (So Far)

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Title: Shovel Knight
Price: $14.99
System(s): 3DS (Also on Wii U and PC)
Release Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Yacht Club Games (Yacht Club Games)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Mild Fantasy Violence

I love Shovel Knight, I want to marry the Shovel Knight, and even though it’s only June, I already want to declare it Best Indie Game of 2014. That’s it. Review’s over. Go to your respective eShop or online outlet and grab your copy.

What, you’re still here?

Okay, fine. I’ll expound upon my love for this wonderful game.

shovel knight

The Fall and Revival of a Hero

Once upon a time, there was a dynamic duo. The Shovel Knight and Shield Knight were nigh unstoppable. The two righted many wrongs and were responsible for saving many days.

You may sense an “unfortunately” is coming, and believe me, one is. While the Shovel Knight and Shield Knight were incredible, they were not infallible. They came upon a challenge to great to overcome. Shovel Knight was knocked out, Shield Knight was gone, and a locked tower seemingly stood between them.

Shovel Knight retired. I suppose you could say he gave up. But that heroic spark remained within and, when he heard the tower opened, he decided to take up his ShovelBlade and set out to search for Shield Knight again, while also protecting his realm from the Enchantress and her Order of No Quarter.

shovel knight

Every Moment is Platforming Perfection

Yacht Club Games clearly adores classic action, platforming, and Metroidvania titles. (I suggested as much in our Shovel Knight preview. Cues are taken from so many incredible games and series, like DuckTales, Mega Man, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros. 3, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. But it isn’t as though the developer saw an idea or concept and just shoe-horned it into Shovel Knight. Yacht Club Games’ staff took every idea and made it their own. Castlevania and Metroid‘s kinds of inventory and progression systems can be seen as the basis for ones here. The notion of Zelda II‘s towns are used, but adjusted in a way that makes a village a welcome hub players will want to explore. DuckTales‘ pogo system is here, but only works as an attacking and exploring tactic in specific situations as to not be exploited.

Shovel Knight just works, and there are so many reasons why. It isn’t just the salutes and references to old games. It’s the new mechanics and original elements as well. I loved fishing for health and profit near dungeon pits. Scouring each level for hidden areas as a joy, and never a chore. Each area is perfectly laid out, inviting people to take chances and try new tactics to progress. Difficulty is wonderfully scaled, as I never felt overwhelmed or as though Yacht Club Games made cheap decisions.

Of course, a large part of Shovel Knight‘s glory is due to it’s trappings. This game looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. If anyone ever questions the beauty of 8-bit games, Shovel Knight should be shoved in their face. The level of detail that goes into each character, enemy, and environment is uncanny. One of my favorites is actually one of the most simple opponents – it’s a flying rat. The enemy is all orange, with black detailing, but I love it. Despite its size and simplicity, there’s such personality there. That kind of effort is applied to every part of Shovel Knight. The soundtrack and graphics are simply superb.

My only regret is that I can’t offer any report on how the StreetPass Battle Arena works. Alas, I accumulated no Shovel Knight StreetPasses during my travels the past week and a half. Still, I hold high hopes for it, considering my satisfaction with every other game element.

shovel knight

All Honor and Respect to the Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is a marvelous game and every time I play it, I’m thankful that Yacht Club Games’ Kickstarter was a success. This is a perfect example of everything a 2D, Metroidvania game should be. The quests, the freedom to choose a players’ paths, the shout outs to old favorites, and practically every aspect of gameplay come together to form something extraordinary.

Truly, Shovel Knight is more a love song than a game. Yacht Club Games created it as a tribute to games they loved in the past. They made it as a show of appreciation to anyone who would take the time to play it. More importantly though, I think it is a show of love for the act of game development itself. Every moment, every pixel is magic, and I’m just glad it’s on the 3DS, Wii U, and PC so such a wide audience can enjoy it.

Site [Shovel Knight]

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