All hail Shovel Knight!

In a once beautiful and peaceful world, darkness has fallen upon the realm. The evil Enchantress and her minions, The Order of No Quarter, have seized the land, blanketing it in darkness and despair. Where brave warriors once protected the realm, many have knelt to the Enchantress, but there is one honorable knight who still stands for truth, justice, and the Code of Shovelry. The brave Shovel Knight has come with his multi-purpose weapon and matchless skills to destroy the evil that has corrupted the land and abducted his beautiful, beloved Shield Knight.

Above all else, Shovel Knight pays homage to the classics of my youth. When you play, you will immediately see the love that the developers at Yacht Club Games have for games like Mega Man, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and Super Mario Bros. 3. That said, you will also feel the pain and frustration that comes with these old-school titles, but that’s a good thing. It is also important to understand that while Shovel Knight tips its hat to the games of old, it is in no way a rehashing of said games. Shovel Knight is its own wonderful creation with a unique and enthralling experience.

Shovel Knight pays homage to the NES classics of old.

What is so mesmerizing about this game is that it doesn’t just attempt to imitate classic games, but Shovel Knight perfectly captures the essence of the classic NES era. The menus, the music, the controls, and every other aspect of this game area weaved together masterfully to create a truly remarkable experience that is as fun and addictive as it is ageless. This is one of those games that I will definitely be playing years from now and loving every replay all the more.

For those of you who never had the opportunity to experience the NES era, I have to warn you about what it means to play a game like this. Shovel Knight is an exciting, fun experience, but it is also a curse that will have you screaming profanities with every death and failure. However, this is part of the beauty of this experience. Unlike many of the games we play today, Shovel Knight demands finesse, skill, and precise timing. This is not a game that can be won with luck or button mashing. You must be patient, you must be quick, and you must learn from your mistakes. In the end, the sense of accomplishment from your improvement and persistence is one of the greatest feelings that a game could ever reward you with.

Shovel Knight isn’t just enjoyable because of the exhilarating gameplay, but it is a captivating experience because of the love that has been put into every detail of the world. The soundtrack, created by Jake Kaufman and Manami Matsumae, is absolutely perfect. The music for every world, level, battle, and screen was masterfully created to be distinctive, appropriate, and absorbing. Each incredible track will keep you pumped and engaged throughout your playthrough and will stay with you long afterwards.

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The utmost care and attention to detail has been put into designing this beautiful world.

The world and characters were also artfully and meticulously designed. Not only did the developers put careful thought into all of the bosses, secrets, and intricate details of each level, but they put just as much care into designing the smallest aspects of the towns and world. Each inhabitant and creature has their own unique design and personality. The developers at Yacht Club Games didn’t have to create dancing villagers, secret mini-games, or add sexy whistles when you walk by in your sparkling, golden armor. Nevertheless, they added all of these intricate features and so much more because of their great love and appreciation for Shovel Knight and all the classics that came before it.

Another aspect of this incredible game that I must applaud is the 3D design. This is actually the first time that I have ever played an entire Nintendo 3DS game with the 3D turned on, and that is saying a lot. I have never had a good experience using this feature. Some games like Pokemon X/Y and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds have had some enjoyable 3D features, but I just end up getting a headache and turning it off. The use of Stereoscopic 3D in Shovel Knight is brilliant and brings this 8-bit world to life in a fantastical fashion. This is the perfect type of game for this kind of gameplay element. It is truly glorious.

While all of this adds to the extraordinary experience that is Shovel Knight, it is the gameplay that will punish you, beguile you, and keep you addicted for years to come. Every level is designed with a distinctive atmosphere, gameplay, innovative level design, and original enemies. While the mechanics may stay the same, every level will require you to reevaluate and relearn how to utilize your skills and weapons, so areas never become monotonous and are always fresh and thrilling to explore. Then, at the end of each level, a magnificent cast of intriguing bosses awaits you. I love the variety that each new level brings to this game.

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“It is up to the player to discover which items they prefer and which items will lead to secrets and treasure galore.”

The weapons and gear in Shovel Knight also add another level of ingenuity to each area. Throughout the game, players will be buying, collecting, and discovering various weapons, items, and armor that keep the gameplay exciting. While many sections will require the use of specific items, in general it is up to the player to discover which items they prefer and which items will lead to secrets and treasure galore.

The treasure was one of the most addictive and frustrating aspects of Shovel Knight. Throughout every level, you will be collecting vast sums of money that quickly lead to obsession and hoarding. The problem with this is that whenever you die, you will lose several bags of treasure that will be left floating in the spot where you perished. At least 90 percent of my deaths were due to my sick fixation on recollecting every last gold coin and gem that I had lost. I just couldn’t move forward without it.

A small problem I had with this was that many times when I died, the money bags were left floating in spots that were impossible to reach. This was absolutely maddening, especially when the bags contained incredibly large sums of money. It would have been nice if the bags at least consistently appeared in a spot that I could get to. Do as I say, not as I do. Just move on. Fortunately, you can earn an infinite amount of money through replays, so it isn’t really a big issue.

Another minor issue I had with the gameplay is with the actual 3DS controls. While the game is expertly designed, the Nintendo 3DS controls can hinder the experience at times. When the foundation of a game is timing and precise movement, poor controller or button design can really lead to occasional frustrations. This of course is no fault of the developer, but the fault rests with the console itself.

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“When the foundation of a game is timing and precise movement, poor controller or button design can really lead to occasional frustrations. “

I have never been happy with the 3DS design, but my displeasure is really intensified when a game requires precise action and control. The D-pad on the 3DS is in such an awkward position that it makes it difficult for me to use as the main instrument for movement. The analog stick is in a more appropriate position, but its poor design is not suitable for securing a solid grip on the system or for maintaining exact control of your character. As of writing this review, I have not experienced Shovel Knight on PC or with the WiiU controls, so I’m anxious to try it out. Though it has not been announced, I can’t help but to hope this game will grace my PlayStation Vita one day, and one witty response in the FAQ section of Yacht Club Games’ site suggest this could be very likely.

For those that think I am in any way unhappy with my experience playing Shovel Knight on the 3DS due to the controls, let me clarify my position to alleviate any misunderstanding. While the 3DS’ controls were occasionally frustrating, this is still an absolutely phenomenal adventure. This is exactly the type of game that I want for handheld systems. I cannot imagine how pitiful, dismal, or meaningless my life would have been without having played Shovel Knight. Though I jest, this game really was an incredible joy to play.

Shovel Knight Characters

“Shovel Knight isn’t just a great game; it is a nearly flawless experience that is a celebration of NES classics and an inspiration for developers and gamers alike.”

The entire game is something that can be beaten in a fairly short amount of time. It took me about 8 hours to complete Shovel Knight, but there is still so much more to do. I still have many secrets to discover and feats to achieve. Also, Yacht Club Games has announced that there will be even more content coming in the future. Battle modes, challenge modes, gender swap, as well as three playable boss campaigns are still on the horizon. For a list of all the features and differences between systems, be sure to visit YachtClubGames.com for the full breakdown.

Shovel Knight is a truly marvelous experience that raises the bar for these types of games. With so many indie developers attempting to create similar style titles, Yacht Club Games has set an extraordinarily high standard that I hope others will strive for. If you love this style of gameplay, then there is absolutely no question that you must buy this game. Shovel Knight isn’t just a great game; it is a nearly flawless experience that is a celebration of NES classics and an inspiration for developers and gamers alike.

[Gamer Assault Weekly was provided with a review copy by Yacht Club Games.]
SHOVEL KNIGHT REVIEW
Shovel Knight is a truly marvelous experience that raises the bar for these types of games. Every aspect of this game has been meticulously designed and crafted with the utmost care and love. If you love this style of gameplay, then there is absolutely no question that you must buy this game. Shovel Knight isn’t just a great game; it is a nearly flawless experience that is a celebration of NES classics and an inspiration for developers and gamers alike. [Available Platforms: 3DS, WiiU, Steam, Mac, Linux]
Gameplay9.5
Controls8.5
Design10
Music & Sound9.5
PROS
  • Beautiful design. Superb music and art direction. Phenomenal use of 3D.
  • Wonderfully addictive gameplay.
  • Care and attention given to every aspect of the game.
CONS
  • Bearable but recurrent 3DS control issues.
9.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
1.1

About The Author

Derrick D
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Derrick has been an avid gamer since before he even started kindergarten. He is a video games enthusiast first and foremost and has a unconditional love for the gaming industry. His fun-loving personality, wide array of experiences, as well as his background in gaming and the film industry have helped him to develop a unique perspective that is always thoughtful and invariably entertaining.

  • nonscpo

    I really want to play this game, but just as i feared (the author helped confirm my fears) the 3DS D-Pad will be a issue. Hopefully somewhere down the road this game will be ported to he Vita, as I don’t anticipate that handheld to have the same problems the 3DS did!