- Yacht Club Games, 2015 -
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Digging A Modern Classic
"Using a shovel as a weapon... what a groundbreaking idea!" quips Croaker, one of the quirky villagers
who inhabit the lands of Shovel Knight. No statement could be any truer — its choice of the utilitarian
shovel is as unconventional as its reluctance to exist in a sterile, 3-D environment as just another
typical game of today.
's Main Menu looks plain and harmless enough, but it belies one of the best conceived games of recent memory.
Instead of being awash in the current climate of gaming where technology seems to always be two
or three months or years ahead in the future, Shovel Knight stands in defiance. Shovel Knight represents the past — set spectacularly and unmistakably in those days of yore — ye golden days of the 8-Bit era. This notion is, as Croaker jokes, well, groundbreaking.
Brandishing his tool of choice with aplomb, our hero, Shovel Knight, scours the lands where the Tower Of Fate has become unsealed to purge the scourge of the evil Enchantress. This villainess, who seems first-in-line for starring role as the next big-screen, Disney fairy-tale evildoer, commands her Order of No Quarter, a group of ignoble knights sworn to allegiance to bid her vile whims. Shovel Knight fends off these forces of evil in search of his trusty companion, the Shield Knight, who mysteriously disappeared at the same time of the tower's broken seal.
The Enchantress and her Order Of No Quarter bringing tyranny across the lands.
With the zeal, free spirit and drive of an independent, Yacht Club Games has crafted and molded a game the right way, similar to how any hardcore fan of retro-gaming would approach the privilege. Fueled on by a groundswell of crowd-sourcing (thanks to generous donations to a successful, Kickstarter campaign), the company rose to the challenge. As if following a calling or realizing the gravity of the honor and duty in their hands, Yacht Club Games' designers, developers and programmers delicately handled their masterpiece with care and integrity — there's no regrettable Franken-game of worn-out gimmicks and lukewarm, rehashed ideas cobbled together here.
What the gamer does get is an example of anachronistic artistry, a title that would stand the test of time no matter what era it originated in. Nearly every sparkling inspiration was gleaned from a successful instance from the Nintendo and Sega era. It is safe to say that the team behind the game did their homework (or perhaps maybe they did not—they were probably too busy "studying" ...er, playing classics back in the '80's and '90's).
These true, old school geeks (meant in the most flattering sense) triumphantly nail all of the classic obligations in game design. Had he lived during the 8-Bit and 16-Bit generations, Shovel Knight would have sat at the head of the table, surrounded by lesser peers of the time, like Ghosts 'N Goblins' Sir Arthur and Kuros of the Wizard & Warriors series. [Click here to see how Sir Arthur really compares to Shovel Knight... check out our Ghosts 'N Goblins review.]
And for good reason — for our hero lives by the motto, "For Shovelry!" And, thus, he would have had any given number of reasons to show why his silver shovel outclasses them all — with all-due apologies to Arthur's lumbering, javelin shots or Kuros' erratic, sword swings.
Shovel Knight prepares to bring a new day to his lands and to the citizens of the gaming world.
First of all, Shovel Knight can use his spade to dig up valuable Gold (the preferred currency across the lands) and gemstones, and crack through locked treasure chests without a key.
By swapping this Gold, he can buy Shovel Blade Upgrades (like the Charge Handle, Trench Blade and Drop Spark to leave no doubt in anyone's mind about the notion of a shovel as weapon par excellence).
Gold, also, lets our hero accessorize his Armor. He can choose from such suits of Armor, upgrading from the Stalwart Plate (the original suit you start the game with) to any one of several selections: the Conjurer's Coat, Dynamo Mail, Mail of Momentum, Final Guard and Ornate Plate. [One additional note: Armor serves more as a special, offensive enhancement than pure protection.])
Finally, Relics are key items that prove to be worth their weight in the Gold used to purchase them. Wandering merchant, Chester, sells these precious commodities and seems to always have the knack of having the best Relic for whichever stage you find him in. These purchases vastly increase Shovel Knight's combat and survival chances.
Shovel Knight can manage his inventory of Relics on-the-fly by freely choosing the most suitable weapon for the given situation at-hand. This may seem like an obvious option, but it is an improvement that Yacht Club Games noticed from its "research" of older great titles, and used to patch in their effort. (For a prime example of the flaw, see the NES' Bionic Commando with its unforgiving programming that could end hours worth of play abruptly, if the player wasn't equipped with the right item or weapon upon entering a zone. [Note that a special secret code could be entered to exit an area in Bionic Commando, but it wasn't an overt choice given or readily-known.])
Shovel Knight's trusty bladed implement can do more than turn over mounds of earth for riches — it can unearth new screens to explore, as well. By noticing slight, curious changes in the backgrounds of the various stages of the game, he can open up wide stretches for exciting exploration with a few swipes of his shovel. These hidden passages enrich the game's replayability, while rewarding those eagle-eyed players with bounties of treasure and more.
If you miss the feeling of pride swelling, as you used to admire your initials glowing atop the High Score/Ranking lists of your favorite arcade machine, fret not. You can transfer those feelings of adequacy or inadequacy (choose which best describes your self-worth of gameplay) to this game. Instead of high scores, though, Shovel Knight gives you a list of Feats to accomplish. These Feats are essentially, a honey-do list of side quests and special achievements to try to check-off.
For instance, searching the countryside for the Bard's 46 scattered pieces of sheet music will secure your Feat of being a MUSIC LOVER. The Bard will be your personal musician, serving as a de facto sound test. Did we mention that these catchy tunes are composed and rendered in the same chiptune style of the Nintendo? (Even this detail remains true to the overall old school aesthetic! More about this later.)
Or you can become a MASTER ANGLER, as you can use your Fishing Rod Relic to test the waters in a number of the game's favorite fishing holes, highlighted by sparkles glinting near the bottomless pits found in some areas.
Mona presents Shovel Knight with one of the Bard's Music Sheets after accomplishing a Feat.
Do what a JUGGLER does best to try to impress the game's resident emo/goth girl and aspiring sorceress, Mona. This fanciful, puzzle game involves skillfully-swatting tumbling potions to rack up points.
Perhaps you can be the HALL CHAMPION splurging 5,000 in Gold to find what unexpected surprises await you inside the Hall Of Champions.
Or play with the Hoop Kid's hoop and practice your shovel down thrust technique (just like Scrooge McDuck's cane pogo technique in DuckTales or Link's downward sword thrust in Zelda II - The Adventure Of Link) to become a — you guessed it — HOOPER.
You get the idea. While accomplishing your Feats may carry you across the game's World Map (very similar to those found in Super Mario Bros. 3, Kirby's Adventure, Bionic Commando and Power Blade), certain roadblocks may cause you to brake.
Shovel Knight's path is detoured, as he meets with dead-end resistance from chance encounters. There are a number of roving combatants along the road that mistake Shovel Knight for an ally of the Enchantress. These road warriors will do everything in their power to bring you to justice.
Shovel Knight's battle against Baz, one of the Wandering Travellers, might remind the player of Simon's Quest - Castlevania II
, as days may pass literally.
Shovel Knight will face off against the following Wandering Travellers: Reize, a misguided, boomerang master; Baz, a grotesque distortion of Castlevania's Simon Belmont [more about him later]; Phantom Striker with his lightning blitz that comes out of the same playbook of Ninja Gaiden's Bloody Malth or Strider's Matic (the Nintendo versions of these titles); and The Big Creep, a spectral force that looks more like a cute, sheet ghost in a witch's hat that may populate your neighborhood streets on Halloween evening.
To meet other interesting individuals along his travels, Shovel Knight can tour the game's two primary towns: the Village (no entrance with a weapon for this peace-seeking haven - see Bionic Commando's Neutral Zones) and the Armor Outpost — both of which seem as though they would exist in another imaginary country in the vast geography of the retro-gaming, global map — just beyond the Hyrulian towns of Zelda II - The Adventure Of Link and the Transylvanian towns found in Castlevania II - Simon's Quest.
A chimera of characters (Deer Ladies; horse-headed Maidens; Peacock Gents; the Goatician [an interesting guy who offers Meal Tickets to a hungry Shovel Knight, who can, in turn, exchange them to become satiated and fortified with additional life bars]; and the previously-mentioned Croaker, an amphibian spinner of puns) peacefully coexists with a colorful lineup (both figuratively and literally, a nice touch, not seen often in older games) where Lady Knights stroll down the same streets that characters of all ages and complexions commingle in.
Laugh at Croaker's puns, and make the acquaintance of the Troupple Acolyte and Chester in this room.
All classes are represented here, as the Deposed King, impatiently-awaiting the time that he can safely reclaim his
throne from the Enchantress' King Knight, shares a room in the Juice Bar with Grandma Swamp, a seer who knows all and tells you in-game statistics in Latin, speaking like the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth—just don't call her one!
Like any RPG or quest game of old, worth its EXP (experience points), the Village and Armor Outpost provide shops
to upgrade your health, magic, weapons and armor. Submit the Gastronomer a Meal Ticket and fill up and extend your life.
Old-fashioned Gold will get the Magicist to build up your Magic Meter. Shovel Smith and Armorer of the Aerial Anvil add variety and range to your offense and defense, respectively, with Gold likewise.
Here's your Meal Ticket! Goatician would just as soon eat that Meal Ticket, so why not take it off his hands and let the Gastronomer give you a culinary treat (and power-up). And don't forget, the Magicist's cauldron of magic-maxing potion.
Being cordial and friendly to the other townsfolk can pay off, as well. Valuable nuggets of information can be
gathered, if Shovel Knight is patient enough to listen.
But, just outside the safety of these areas, Shovel Knight is exposed, as he hunts down the miscreants terrorizing the
countryside and tries to get ever-closer to finding his beloved Shield Knight. These hinterlands have been overrun by
the Enchantress' Order of No Quarter (comprised of King Knight, Specter Knight, Treasure Knight, Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Polar Knight, Propeller Knight and Tinker Knight), the band of confederates whom have shirked their chivalry to swear fealty to the Enchantress.
Shovel Knight travels across a World Map, much in the same fashion of Super Mario Bros. 3
. He must land on spots on the map, and upon completion of an area, more routes are opened.
They form a round table that Shovel Knight must go round to round against: each knight possessing a specialty power
and ruling over a stage that plays off of that knight's particular abilities, very much in the style of the Robot Masters of the Mega Man series. [Click here to check out our Mega Man review.]
Their fun and totally out-there personalities have taken direct cues from Mega Man. However, unlike Mega
Man, Shovel Knight's Order of No Quarter cannot be played in any order — the game's World Map ensures
that there are some predetermined routes that must be followed, as you approach the Tower Of Fate.
The Order is where the Yacht Club Games' developers get to show just how much all of that "homework" growing up, has paid off.
All that glitters is not gold. King Knight's golden armor and cape may help him look the part, but this trespassing troublemaker is not royalty — instead he's a royal pain.
The gold leaf of the delusional King Knight flakes away as he is hold up in Pridemoor Keep, the castle of the Deposed
King. The ousted king's regal trappings have been rigged with deterrents, as well-guarded ramparts and battlements,
obscuring banners, stair-step spell books, hidden doors and crashing chandeliers all do their best to discourage
The interior decorator and architect of the castle may have taken some notes from DuckTales 2's Scotland and Castlevania - Symphony Of The Night. The stage ends with a flourish of fanfare and a hail of razor-sharp confetti, as knight takes king to reclaim the rook.
The environs of the Specter Knight, known as the Lich Yard, take more direction from the stand-out series,
Castlevania. [Click here to check out our Castlevania review.] This Halloween landscape exemplifies its host well. Moody, deep-purple mansions slumber in the
distance, as low-lying fog stretches across gnarled trees and broken fence posts, and seeps into catacombs deep below.
Beware of the Super Skeletons that carry lanterns, standing guard in the underground crypts. And watch your footing, as your weight sinks floating rooms, replete with blood-red skeletons hanging from the rafters — just like the rooms that contain Dracula's body parts in the mansions that populate Castlevania II - Simon's Quest. Then, watch out as Specter Knight impersonates the Grim Reaper, from swooshing scythe to the tattered robes. There are even noticeable glissandi or glissandos in the music that point to Castlevania's legendary soundtrack.
Tinker Knight's Clockwork Tower does its best to keep time with the dreaded original found in Castlevania III -
Dracula's Curse. Throw in a few runaway gears from Metal Man's stage from Mega Man 2 and from the Stage 9 Terra Tubes of Battletoads, then add in a mega-sized boss battle with a twist, right out of Mega Man III, and there you have it: an uphill fight to bring Tinker Knight's cog work to a grinding stop.
Even the minor boss encounter on the World Map screen with Baz nods at Simon's Quest. This hulking caricature of Simon Belmont, whip in hand, with tower looming in background like Dracula's Castle, will almost make you expect an appearance by the Prince of Darkness himself! Time even switches from daylight to nighttime, during the contest — an overt salute to Simon's Quest's revolutionary experiment of adding the element of time change to gameplay.
Plague Knight and his domain, the Explodatorium
, are an ode to alchemy and Medieval times.
One of the coolest and most original entries in enemy design over the last few years for any game would have to be
Plague Knight. This mysterious foe is dressed in the raiment of a medieval doctor of the Black Plague. Decked out in long cloak and creepy, bird-beak mask with goggles, his identity is
safely concealed. His lair is known as the Explodatorium, and serves as an alchemy lab of glowing Bunsen burners,
graduated cylinders and test tubes.
A mad wizard called the Alchemeister, carelessly tosses flammable potions before morphing into a raging beast, not unlike the tragic figure in Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. Explosive lab rats (Ratsploders) heat-seek Shovel Knight at every turn. All of these outstanding examples serve as an explosion of creativity for Yacht Club Games.
Treasure Knight's Iron Whale
Stage takes you to the depths of his sunken ship as you plunge deep in search of its host.
Other stages fringing on science fiction and fantasy are highlighted by the Treasure Knight's Iron Whale and Propeller
Knight's Flying Machine — both strong testaments to steampunk ingenuity. Jules Verne's and H.G. Wells' knack for an imaginative parallel to our world of science and settings of futuristic technology are absorbed by both.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea meets the "Dream 4: Night Sea" stage from the Nintendo's Little Nemo: The Dream Master, as Treasure Knight, dressed in deep-sea diving gear of old, chucks anchors at our hero.
Super Mario Bros. 3's floating armada of airships gets a Mega Man makeover with shifting winds, as Propeller Knight gets reincarnated as an Air Man/Gyro Man/Tengu Man-hybrid that brings an attack, not unlike Yoshi Island's final battle.
Shovel Knight tries to ground Propeller Knight, who floats above cloud tops, during a scenic, sunset battle atop the Flying Machine
From time to time, throughout Shovel Knight's march to the Enchantress, a mysterious knight confronts our hero — the enigmatic Black Knight. Is he a friend or enemy? He serves as Protoman/Breakman to Shovel Knight's Mega Man.
Upon arrival at the accursed tower, the player can't help, but think of how Dr. Wily's castle was fortified and laid out in multiple stages to discourage trespassers and intruders, as he/she crashes through the gates of the TOWER OF FATE ENTRANCE, interrupts a Leonardo DaVinci-esque Last Supper scene by the Order of No Quarter at the TOWER OF FATE ASCENT and then follows a true path of leap-of-faith, as stones appear at his/her feet for each paralyzingly-blind step forward, as he/she approaches the end at the TOWER OF FATE.
There is a sustained degree of difficulty that the player must endure, but again, the extensive, behind-the-scenes research and debugging that the developers and designers programmed into the game keep the gameplay and the gamers' stress level balanced at a manageable, but still fun level. Certain nuances may fall unnoticed to the wayside by the casual gamer or the neophyte who wasn't reared on a strict, 8-Bit diet of no continues, no save states and no memory cards — but not on those fans who dig a little deeper.
The mysterious Black Knight... Is he friend or foe?
Here are a few of those examples for the uninitiated.
Shovel Knight's controls are exemplary and have been carefully-calibrated. Who knew that a shovel could prove to be such a versatile utensil for protection and defense? With spade in hand, Shovel Knight can Dig Slash (throw over clods, attack and deflect) and Shovel Drop (in air with a down-thrust) with the best of them. A Ground Spark Technique can be added to the shovel to add a shocking wave that travels through the ground.
For additional help and longer-distance attacks, he can rely on his extensive collection of twelve Relics. These Relics are essentially, direct descendants or distant cousins from the Mega Man tree of inspiration.
Some are more-or-less dedicated weapons, like the fiery Flare Wand; the forceful War Horn that drops a sonic boom on all foes within earshot; and the Dust Knuckles (not to be confused with Mega Man III's Hard Knuckles).
Others are more in line with special abilities. The Phase Locket feels similar to the temporary potions and spells found in Wizards & Warriors. It makes Shovel Knight temporarily-impenetrable by spikes.
Special Chalices are bought that can be filled with the Troupple King's "Ichors" that empower him in one of three different ways: Renewal fills all energy and magic levels; Boldness grants invincibility for 10 seconds; and Fortune turns Shovel Knight into a money magnet per se; that is for 60 seconds, all Gold in the field of play will be drawn to him!
This Shovel Knight
Sub Screen shows your Relics and Gear.
Weaponry aside, Shovel Knight handles like a Ryu Hayabusa, Mega Man or Uncle Scrooge; his surprisingly-high
leaps and grip-like traction on a run and stop are very natural to a gamer's sensibilities. His actual range of
movements are dynamic, with one major maneuver being missing — the ability to crouch or duck.
There is also the jarring, bounce-back effect created when Shovel Knight collides with a foe. Temporary invincibility upon contact with an enemy does provide brief respite to escape a tense situation, still-and-all the recoil does raise one's anxiety levels. (NOTE: If this recoil affects you too much, you can purchase Mail Of Momentum Armor that will deaden the blows, however stopping is tougher, as Shovel Knight tends to shuffle to a stand-still.)
Because of some of the technological tricks and tools that were unimaginable back in the 8-Bit days, but that are now available, the control scheme for Shovel Knight is totally in the hands of the gamer, quite literally. It offers full configuration of the buttons for your liking, and even accepts a number of different controller types (including the Wii U GamePad) to be used on the Wii U!
From a graphic sense, Shovel Knight stays true to the pleasing sights of the 8-Bit and 16-Bit aesthetic, but is able to overcome the grips of the NES' crippling, color palette (only 56 or so unique colors). However, the artists don't go full-blown with the color explosion, still giving the vibe and look of a game that one can imagine would have had a cult-like following and full-run back in the day.
This terrifying anglerfish, known as Teethalon, shows off some of the exquisite graphics the game possesses, while paying homage to Mega Man 2
's enemy design.
Amplifying some of the visuals, like the garish green rainfall at the Tower of Fate, or the intricate details of large creatures that stand as mini-bosses on some stages (such as the sleeping dragons, or Dozedrakes, that exhale bubbles or the wicked anglerfish, or Teethalon, with its treasure chest dangling so menacingly-close to its mouth — both bring comparisons of Mega Man 2 to mind), reveals just how talented the illustrating staff was.
Other caring touches of the artist's brush include the smooth parallax effect of up-close tree lines and the ever-present Tower Of Fate in the distance, creating the very-believable illusion of movement, and the realistic animation of objects in the background, such as the splashing waterfalls and silent wisps of clouds casually drifting by.
Carrying over that same level for retro appreciation, Yacht Club Games replicated a resplendent style that rings true to the ears of old-school audiophiles. They opted to give Shovel Knight a genuine feel by complementing its 8- and 16-Bit look with channels of chiptune sound. The game's music is composed in warm, deep, electronic drones; white noise; static effects and tinkling tunes — all the sawtooth, square and block waves washing over the listener, taking him or her back to a time when talented programmers and skilled composers had to overcome technical limitations to create anthems that are still enjoyed and performed to this day on real instruments.
Shovel Knight composer, Jake "Virt" Kaufman, used hobbyist tools to write and program over two hours of music that can actually be played on a real NES or Famicom console. (How's that for staying true to the game's soul?)
And if all of that wasn't enough, Kaufman enlisted the legendary, Manami Matsumae (creator of music and sound effects on the original Mega Man)! Matsumae contributed two tracks ("Flowers of Antimony (The Explodatorium)" and "A Thousand Leagues Below (Iron Whale)"), lending legitimacy and authenticity to the overall project.
Rounding out Yacht Club Games' dedication to achieving past gameplay perfection is the company's use of clever level design, smart puzzles and features. Shovel Knight showcases a number of innovative elements to excite players of any generation.
Some of the more memorable are: the Lich Yard being cloaked in darkness and silhouettes until lightning flashes light the way (à la Ninja Gaiden II); or the Flying Machine's directional gusts (choose from any of Mega Man's various air/wind-themed stages or Ninja Gaiden II's Act II Area 2 Mountain stage); or the Shovel Knight-shaped, carved-out indentations found on some of the doors in Pridemoor Keep that unlock upon our hero impersonating a life-sized key; or the bouncy, green, rubber magma that oozes in abundance in Mole Knight's subterranean terror zone, the Lost City.
excels as a superior game, but don't worry that the thrill ends after you defeat the Enchantress; a brand-new adventure opens as you get to play as Plague Knight in his own special quest, known as Plague Of Shadows
As you have seen, many winning efforts to sway over retro-gamers' approval were taken. The overall effect is near peerless. But for all of the joys of playing a game with the look and feel of a classic '80's or '90's title, Yacht Club Games performs its true coup-de-grace, by erasing away all remnants of what made playing old school games so un-fun. This may be where the game excels best.
Since this is a newer day of limitless, gaming potential and because the developers at Yacht Club Games sacrificed countless quarters, 1UP's and hours of anguish and ire in poorly-designed games with no save points (and maybe a few controllers, too), we get to bask in the joys of pushing through a well-honed title that, although hard, seamlessly plays at a refined level.
They learned from all of the earlier drawbacks and faltering efforts, and now have the technology to push beyond. None of the frustrations of game data not saving, or guessing if that unknown digit in your handwritten password was an l, a 1 or an I anymore — Yacht Club Games really gets it. Because they understand that this is a tougher title, there are a number of fail-safe fallbacks to prevent you from losing your invaluable progress.
In so many old-school games, when your player perished, you would lose all of your power-ups or money or what have you.
Upon Shovel Knight's early and unintentional death, you only lose a quarter of the riches you have earned. But, there is a twist. If you can make it back to the point of your demise, you get the opportunity to recapture the loot, as it enticingly-floats there in money bags, awaiting your retrieval!
Money and power-ups were rarely the most important items a player wanted to preserve during a long game and an unexpected defeat; the actual progress was the supreme, prized possession cherished most. In so many older titles, there was no way to save that progress, inherently built in. If the player wanted to complete the game and it was an especially-hard challenge, the player had only a few options:
- he/she could find a nice, cozy spot to hunker down in for the duration, and expect to spend an exorbitant number of uninterrupted and unhealthy hours of excruciation and glazed-over eyes, trying to soldier on [not recommended, by the way];
- take the chance of leaving the console and game on, paused for hours on end, until he/she had the time to devote to the task again [again, not recommended for the well-being of the game, the game system, the television or the electric bill!]
- if she/he was especially lucky, there may be a secret code to help move you ahead [Shameless plug... click here to visit our new SECRETS page!] [Also, more about this later.]
Yacht Club Games' designers and developers remembered these dark times as well. And so, they made sure to make Shovel Knight alleviate all of these issues glowingly.
Shovel Knight gets between 4 and 6 checkpoints per stage to save his progress. However, he can break checkpoints for extra Gold.
First of all, the player has the ability to approach each stage in nice, bite-sized morsels. That is, there are
between four and six checkpoints per stage, giving the player a much-more manageable mission, despite the stage's
difficulty. Very few games of old had more than one checkpoint per level, so four to six is a true luxury!
In several old-school games, there was that issue of not being able to go back to certain screens once you passed them. Shovel Knight eases the player's mind with the freedom to go back and forth, which comes in handy for resetting rooms and enemies or building up your spoils.
And, of course, the programmers were thoughtful enough to remove time limits from the game, making the sport of back-tracking even more appealing. (NOTE: For those screens that Shovel Knight truly can't return to [like when he drops out of the ceiling], upon completion of the stage, he can revisit the level again and continue his exploration.)
Years ago, if a level proved to be too challenging or if a player didn't have the right item in hand, the gamer would be out of luck. (Games, like Strider on the NES (if you could make it back to the start of a stage) and Bionic Commando [but, only when a secret code was entered], provided limited and trickier plans of evacuation.) The only solutions for most games would be to, unceremoniously, commit player hara-kiri (which could really set progress back, or if it was a truly, poorly-designed game, end it altogether). Pressing the RESET or POWER button would end the misery, even quicker.
Not anymore! The player can leave a stage at anytime in Shovel Knight! The RETURN TO MAP option can be
summoned at any point, thus resetting gameplay back to the point prior to entering the troubling stage. (Simply press START to call up the Pause Menu, then choose RETURN TO MAP.)
an added stamp of safety, Shovel Knight automatically saves the game whenever the player returns to the Map
Screen. (However, to clarify, collected Gold and Relics will not be saved using the Pause Menu RETURN TO MAP option; only when a stage is defeated, will these items be saved.)
Will you and Shovel Knight be able to rescue Shield Knight?
Another subtlety that the Yacht Club Games team went above and beyond on was the elimination of lag and flicker. The total absence of lag when multiple, animated sprites or items reside in the same screen is another sly touch that couldn't exist years ago in the weaker technology and engines that powered old-school games. The removal of this stalled play and graphic flicker in the game goes a long way towards melting away frustration that tormented action-packed titles of old.
Shovel Knight packs all of the modern amenities of gaming without risk, right from the comforts of your
favorite couch or chair. But, why waste any of the super abilities and opportunities that the technology of today bears?
Yacht Club Games (yet again!) surpasses expectations, while bridging the gap between old- and new-school gamers. Being that this is the age of the Internet and social media interaction, its website for Shovel Knight is an online treasure chest. On it, you can browse to find:
- up-to-the-minute news and content;
- free, high-resolution image and art downloads;
- a shop that lets you choose your price for purchasing the game's soundtrack;
- a distributor of exclusive merchandise and more
The web presence helps to appease all fans, while giving everyone across the cyberworld (and much of the globe) the chance to experience the excitement.
The website isn't the only way the Internet plays an integral part; the Wii U version of Shovel Knight capitalizes on its degree of interactivity and ease on the gaming side of things.
Not only can one forgo owning a physical copy of the game (Yes, Shovel Knight can be downloaded to your Wii U directly), but several other perks are at your fingertips.
The Wii U offers an Amiibo Shovel Knight - an exclusive character that unlocks two-player, co-op gameplay!
For one, the gamer can take a break from the action to post an entry in the Digger's Diary to be seen across the Miiverse. Partake in the fun and read others' entries about Shovel Knight, while you share your thoughts and maybe pick up a few pointers.
Another instance of interactive ingenuity is Nintendo's partnership with Yacht Club Games to release an Amiibo of Shovel Knight.
Not only is the collectible figure a cool item to own for any fan, but it enables awesome unlockables, like the capability of two-player, cooperative play! Replaying this fun title with a partner simultaneously allows for a fresh playthrough, while opening up Shovel Knight's wardrobe to a world of more costumes, color schemes and abilities.
As if all of this isn't enough, Yacht Club Games rewards its fan base with two bonus quests and a Challenges menu item, upon completion of the original game.
This go-round, the gamer gets to reprieve his role with a slight twist. In this phase, you retain all of your Relics and Upgrades from the prior contest, and get to replay through a harder version, in which you can collect and uncover everything you were unable to the first time. This mode is called the New Game+.
Or you can embark on a fresh quest commanding Plague Knight in Plague Of Shadows — a whole-new experience with new abilities, interactions, relationships and more to explore!
And even more free updates will be available, as they are completed — even if you have the boxed version of the game! There are tentative plans for a Specter Knight and King Knight Campaign (similar to Plague Knight's), a Battle Mode and a Body/Gender Swap Mode to change around the whole cast of characters in the game!
This is a game that gives back, as it gives the owner more new adventures without any extra charge for downloadable content (DLC) or anything. What a noble and generous gesture in this hyper-inflated market of games and gaming systems!
contains some 300+ secret passwords! You will be surprised by some of the more imaginative unlockables.
Oh, and if all of this action proves to be too challenging, Yacht Club Games comes to the rescue, delivering over 300 secret codes and passwords! This jumbo carton of easter eggs ranges from change in armor color to various power-up enhancements. Exploring this cool collection of codes makes the legend grow that much more. (See Secrets & Tips for Shovel Knight section below.)
We would be remiss, if we forgot to include that Shovel Knight has even more replayability — there's a special Challenge mode that let's the gamer try to successfully check off more than 50 additional tasks or feats! Some of these include: Anchors Aweigh, Cog Bounce Chaos, Extendo Retracto, Rematches against all bosses and many more. (We would explain all of these more in-depth, but we want you to discover some details for yourself.)
In closing, this review can't give Shovel Knight the full justice it deserves. This game really needs to be experienced in person, and with all of the platforms it is available on (Wii U [of course], 3DS, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, Linux and Steam), along with its very affordable price (it is less than half the cost of most current generation releases, and can either be downloaded [for convenience and to please the next-gen gamers] or purchased as a hard copy [to satisfy the fans who like the feeling of unwrapping a new game and inhaling that new-game smell — but, sorry, there is no cartridge to blow into — probably the only old-school treat that Yacht Club Games was unable to cram into this stellar title]), it should be a staple in any video game fans collection.
Nothing feels forced or too artificial or untrue to the era it pays homage to, as Shovel Knight manages to maintain that delicate balance that benefits from today's technology, but still captures the pure quintessence of yesterday.
Those ardent Kickstarter donors wouldn't have it any other way. Shovel Knight teaches a valuable lesson, as it illustrates the heights of greatness that can blossom when a strong, grassroots effort meets a talented and equally-dedicated gaming company that cares about preserving the quality, while remembering and honoring the past. It just goes to show that if you dig deep enough, jewels like Shovel Knight that seem to be tucked away or lost inside a time capsule, can be unearthed and shared to see the light of this new day.
b. jones/b. retro © Mother's Day 2016
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