August 7, 2019 at 2:25 PM #1393
Rating: 5.0 – Flawless
Blast from the past
Shovel Knight review
Written by: Erick Ashe
Shovel Knight is one of those rare callbacks to the NES era of platformers that masterfully brings that vibe to the modern world of video gaming. It takes inspiration from many of that generation’s greatest achievements, but adds its own flavor so it can stand out. Sure, the game can be downright infuriating at times, but you have to understand that at the end of the day, this is a throwback to the retro platformers of old. It’s tough, but well worth the effort to make it through the whole thing. I can say that without a doubt, Shovel Knight is one of the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing.
The first thing that really caught my attention is that the story is actually really good. That was surprising to me, considering retro games never really cared about story. Now it’s not the deepest story I’ve ever played. In fact, it is actually a very simple story. Shovel Knight, and his love Shield Knight, are exploring the Tower of Fate when a cursed amulet takes over Shield Knight. They are both separated and a grieved Shovel Knight goes into retirement. But an evil organization known as the order of no quarter, led by the Enchantress, is trying to take over the land. So it’s up to you to defeat all of the evil knights, save Shield Knight from the Enchantress, and restore peace to the land. It sounds basic, and to be fair it kind of is, but the game never takes itself too seriously and has a lot of good humor in it. While it isn’t the main focus of the game, the story kept me engaged and I actually cared about what was going to happen as the plot unfolds.
But the one thing that this game needed to get right was its gameplay. Thankfully, the game plays beautifully. The controls are tight and responsive and whenever I did mess up, It was almost always my own fault. To be fair, it does take a lot of inspiration from other retro games, for example, the pogo stick ability from Duck Tales, but it didn’t just straight up rip them off. They take these styles of gameplay and make it so it fits with the game as a whole. You don’t only use these abilities in combat, you can use them to either get on a higher ledge or access an otherwise blocked off area. What I also like about the gameplay is the shovel itself. I know that sounds weird to say, but the game makes it so the shovel is both a weapon and a tool. You can dig up treasure, find secret pathways, destroy things blocking your path, and of course, kill enemies with it.
Shovel Knight has one of the greatest soundtracks I have ever heard. Every song in the game goes perfectly with each stage and I could listen to it all day. The game is also fairly long, clocking in at around eight hours or so. But you could easily put twenty to thirty hours into this game trying to get all of the treasures in the game. Though, if you think that it is going to be easy, you are sorely mistaken. This game is incredibly difficult and can be downright infuriating at times. But, I think that this isn’t a bad thing. Retro games were always incredibly difficult and the game was made with that intention. But, the most difficult part about this game is its boss battles. They are all fun and require strategic thinking in order to beat them, but very hard. You will die multiple times and probably want to throw your controller at the TV screen, but again, the game is intentionally difficult.
Now, I do have things that I don’t like about the game. First of all, there isn’t that big of a consequence for dying. The only thing that happens is that you lose some of your money, but you will have so much of it, that you never get a game over. Plus, you can go back to where you last died and grab all the money you lost, undermining the sense of dread you would normally get when you die. I feel like it should have lives instead of taking away some of your money. And if you ever accidentally drop to a previous floor you already cleared, all of the enemies will have reappeared. This sucks because you can die from enemies that you previously killed, which is incredibly frustrating. But even with all of that said, these are really just nitpicks in comparison to the game as a whole.
Shovel Knight is one of those games that you must play if you are a fan of old school side-scrollers. And even if you’re not, I still urge you to at least give it a try, because I think you will not be disappointed. Shovel Knight is not only great because it is an excellent homage to retro side scrolling platformers like Mario and Megaman. It’s great because it finds its own place in the genre. With its refined and near perfect gameplay, surprisingly good story, humor, and characters, as well as hours upon hours of extra content, Shovel Knight is a phenomenal throwback to the retro platformers of yesteryear.
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