Review: Shovel Knight
When Shield Knight is lost it’s up to Shovel Knight to fight through The Order of No Quarter and take down the evil Enchantress in order to save his beloved. Doing this is no easy task and he’ll need all the help he can get from townsfolk, hidden power-ups, and of course the Troupple King. (Long may his stem grow.)
What’s there to even say about Shovel Knight at this point? When I played the game last Summer on Wii U I found myself completely blown away. In a lot of ways it’s a homage to Mega Man that I never knew I wanted. As a platformer it has everything that I love. It controls perfectly, there’s great level design that leads to a steady difficulty increase, great boss fights, great OPTIONAL boss fights, fun challenges that use the power-ups you find, and an absolutely stellar soundtrack. Plus there’s some cool places that you can visit filled with interesting characters to meet, sidequests to finish, and upgrades to buy. Discovering just who the Troupple King was for instance is one of many things to instantly put a smile on my face.
In Shovel Knight you’ll need to take on each of the 8 Knights of The Order of No Quarter before ultimately reaching the Enchantress. Stages are themed after each Knight (King Knight, Plague Knight, etc.) and will feel similar in structure to something like Mega Man. The level design is smart in the way it teaches you how things work without a need to stop the action. There’s also just a lot of variety to each stage. You’ll storm a castle in King Knight’s stage and find yourself in some sort of science lab in Plague Knight’s. Stages contain plenty of hidden areas, music sheets, and special power-ups that you’ll need to seek out on your adventure. These things are optional, but they are things that I find myself wanting to seek out because of how much fun I’m having. Also optional are the checkpoints within stages. In Shovel Knight you can choose to break apart a checkpoint, thus rendering it useless, in exchange for more gold to spend on upgrades. (Or maybe you just want to show off.) It’s a super cool mechanic that plays with risk vs. reward and it helps to set Shovel Knight apart.
Shovel Knight’s shovel blade can be used to dig up buried treasure, destroy breakable walls, open treasure chests, and most importantly dispense “Shovel Justice”. The shovel can be used to simply strike enemies, but it also makes for a good pogo-stick. It’s seriously so much fun bouncing on top of enemies, striking another enemy in mid air, and then returning to the earth for another strike with your trusty shovel. Shovel Knight controls perfectly and each challenge overcome feels incredibly rewarding because of it.
Towns in the game feature many different characters who have a lot to say. Some might be involved in some sort of side quest while others might just be there to tell you various stats about your current playthrough. It’s also in towns where you can purchase health, magic, and armor upgrades. Some pieces of armor specifically can change the way you play. I really like the gold set that makes you do jump flips and is otherwise completely useless. (Sometimes it’s fun to fashionable rather than practical.)
On the world map you’ll sometimes find random travelers that, if you confront them, will start an optional boss fight. Much like any other boss fight in the game these are tough, fun, and rewarding. With the PlayStation version of the game we can now seek out and fight Kratos from God of War. The fight with him is actually a bit more involved than most other fights and is quite the spectacle. I love the inclusion of Kratos just as a new piece of content to see, but it’s also super rad that defeating Kratos rewards you with something really cool.
Shovel Knight has everything. It’s fun, the soundtrack is ridiculously good, the difficulty curve feels just right, there’s smart level design, funny writing, a story that’s surprisingly touching, and so much more. I’ve already finished the game a handful of times over the past year and I’ll continue to play through it multiple times throughout the next. As it stands it’s my favorite platformer from the past few years and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Level design
- Checkpoint system
- Funny writing
- Boss fights
- Reward for defeating Kratos
- Lots of optional things to do and secrets to find
- The Troupple King