I love Shovel Knight so much… that I stopped playing it after it came out? I dunno, sometimes I just check in on a game and once I have confirmed it is so good that I will come back to it, I’ll move on to the next gaming mystery. I’m back though and a happier gamer for it even if it did kick my ass all over again.
From its instantly classic intro music (another masterpiece from Jake Kaufman who actually paired up on a few songs with the original composer of Mega Man – Manami Matsumae) to its perfectly titled enemy faction – the Order of No Quarter – Shovel Knight tastes like a game from another era. Flawless presentation aside, it also plays incredibly well. It’s one of those games that when you fail/die you know it’s your own fault and not the game’s design. SK isn’t punishing, though, as your death only leads to another carrot of a corpse run to try to recapture your treasure.
I’ll admit I keep expecting a hyped indie retro platformer to fall on its face. It just seems like the odds would catch up to all of these different developers. On the surface level, I didn’t get Shovel Knight. I felt like I was missing the joke. Jokes don’t matter when you have a pogo mechanic though. That one feature made me give Shovel Knight a shot. Scrooge would be proud.
The other personal failing in my first impression with Shovel Knight is that I kind of assumed and therefore wanted it to play like Ghost ‘n Goblins or a Castlevania game. SK is Mega Man’s medieval fantasy. I fought the game to frustration a bit at first, but then it turns out Shovel Knight has a few lessons of its own to pass onto the Blue Bomber. Haven’t you always wanted an inventory system and an overworld map with mini-games, Rockman?
Every detail of Shovel Knight feels like a love letter to the genre, yet completely unique in its own right. Shovel Knight is out on modern platforms but brings forward some of the graphical glitches of the original consoles. Designing glitches… that’s a special level of craftsmanship. Most video game homages feel like they are living in the shadows of the old classics, but Shovel Knight belongs right along side the classic platformers that it loves more than you or I do.
Shovel Knight was released on June 26, 2014 and is available now on PC, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS