Players that grew up in the NES era will recall a time when gaming was all about razor-sharp skills and little else. Where graphics were second to gameplay and seeing the end credits was something only a few ever got to see. Shovel Knight wants you to relive those memories, and it’s doing it so in spectacular fashion.
As the name implies you play as a Knight with a shovel in-hand. Shovel Knight’s buddy, Shield Knight, travels the lands on adventures together, but soon comes to an end when a cursed amulet brings it to an end at the Tower of Fate. Shield Knight simply disappears and it’s up to Shovel Knight to rescue the day. No, no princess in sight. This is a bromance on a medieval scale.
Think of Shovel Knight as a combination of the best bits from Megaman and Castlevania. It’s a 2D side-scroller (though I should mention that the 3D effect on the 3DS looks phenomenal) that starts off very similar to a Megaman stage. In fact, some of the sound effects mimics everything about Megaman, even the fantastic soundtrack and the moment you die. Touch a spike and it’s instant death, but you’ll start with several health bar slots to take on foes with your trusty, and very dangerous, shovel.
You can attack foes, using the shovel, by pressing the A button and jump with B. Combine your shovel attack with ‘down’ on the D-pad and you’ll shovel-plant into some unsuspecting foes noggin, when attacking from above. That’s as complicated as the button layout gets for physical attacks. Physical attacks? Yes, this Knight has the might of relic magic by his side.
As you make your way through the game you’ll be collecting treasure. Die and you’ll love some of the treasure, so be careful. Collecting treasure is key to progressing as you’ll be buying relics that will help you in battle as at the end of each stage, as with Megaman, you’ll go up against a Boss. Boss fights, as with early NES games, involves some sort of pattern, which you’ll learn from every time you meet your maker. It’s here where the relics become priceless as some boss fights are tougher than others. You’ll press ‘up’ on the D-Pad along with A to activate it, or you can press the bottom touch screen, though things are generally too frantic to be bothered with touch actions. Each boss fight is themed accordingly to a stage (Wind, Fire, Ice, etc) and you can’t help but feel all the Megaman love injected into each fight.
To make your way between the various stages you’ll be following a top-down map, as with older Mario games, whereby you’ll also be able to take part in side-quests to grant you more treasure, though each one comes with some sort of boss fight. It’s also on this map that you can visit the Village or Armour outpost to upgrade your shovel as well as health and overall magic status.
The only downfall to Shovel Knight is that it’s a tad bit short and will be finished in around 7 hours. But, when you consider that you’re only paying R180 it’s still great value for money and platform junkies should definitely not miss out on this. It’s essentially the best 8-Bit game since the demise of 8-Bit consoles.
It’s is a love letter to platform games of the past, when gaming was less about hype, DLC, pre-orders and everything that’s wrong with the industry and more about fun and outright skills. Shovel Knight will put most modern games to bed with a shovel.