I’m an old school gamer, meaning I grew up in the days of games where mascots were the shit and most games were a blissful adventure that involved the gamer as well as frustrated them. Sadly games like the ones from those days are few and far in-between, however, there are exceptions. From time to time, there is that one game that comes out that seems to recapture that magic of those years gone by that made most people, including myself, enjoy gaming.

Shovel Knight is one those games.

PLATFORMS:  PC (Reviewed), 3DS, WiiU
PUBLISHER(S):  Yacht Club Games
DEVELOPER(S):  Yacht Club Games
RELEASE DATE: June 26th, 2014
PRICE: $14.99

So what exactly is Shovel Knight?

Shovel Knight is an homage of some of the best games to ever grace the 8-bit scene. I’m talking about Mega Man, Super Mario, Castlevania, Metroid and a couple other classic games tossed in for good effect.  Even the story is modeled after those classic games.

In Shovel Knight you are pitted against the 8 lords of “The Order of No Quarter” and their leader, the Enchantress, in order to save the kingdom that you once held dear and attempt to reunite with your former partner, the Shield Knight, who vanished many years again in a tragic event. Did I mention that Shovel Knight is the love child of Mega Man and Link? Well not really, but c’mon the resemblance is there.

Silly guard, this be no ordinary sword!

Silly guard, this be no ordinary sword!

The game features 8 bosses that are scattered across the 8-bit landscape that features a world map similar to that of Super Mario Bros. 3 that even has random events that can happen throughout your journey. Each of stage features the standard 2D platforming elements plus a unique spin depending on the stage you’re on that range from conveyor belts to total screen blackouts with only a quick flash of lightning to light the way to water that will force you to time your jumps correctly or face certain death. In fact, if you’re familiar with the Mega Man series then trust me when I say you’ll be right at home.

So mighty Shovel Knight, it is up to you to right the wrongs in the kingdom, are you up for the challenge?

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Evil Koopa and his troopers are up to ….. er, wrong game.

So you’re not a fan of the 8-bit styled games? Well, that’s fine, toss that aside for a moment and you still have several factors that make Shovel Knight stand out from the crowd.

The Sound Track

Oh boy, if you’re a fan of old school chip tunes then you’re going to love this soundtrack.  Composed by the extraordinary Jake “Virt” Kaufman (Mighty Milky Way, Mighty Switch Force, Double Dragon Neon) and Manami Matsumae (Mega Man, U.N Squadron, Magic Sword and the upcoming Mighty No.9), this soundtrack has it all. Each stage is provided its own unique flair and the music is catchy, real catchy. Made me feel like I was 10 years old again and had me looking to find my tape recorder that I had stolen from when I was younger (Doh!). Oh well, at least the soundtrack will be available shortly and let’s be real, does anyone even have a tape player in their home anymore?

Oh, just me?

The Controls

Tight Tight Tight! The controls in Shovel Knight are very tight and responsive, which is fantastic as this game requires some slight second timed jumps and the last thing you need to is slide or feel that your on-screen buddy is completely ignoring your commands. Controls are definitely a “Make it or Break it” deal and I’m glad to see and feel that the controls are top notch here!

The Combat

Well, seeing how you’re called Shovel Knight you might have guessed that your primary attack is based on using that shovel to jab and poke your opponents to submission and you’d be right. However, it’s surprisingly odd how effective that shovel can be. You have the standard attacks (Left, Right) as well as the ability to use the shovel like a pogo stick and use it to attack enemies from above as well as using that attack to access out of reach areas. On top of that, you can also collect items called relics that can be used to supplement your attacks. Some relics can give you a ranged attack while others can provide additional useful abilities such as limited damage reduction and more.

On top of that, you can also collect items called relics that can be used to supplement your attacks. Some relics can give you a ranged attack while others can provide additional useful abilities such as limited damage reduction and more.

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Customization

Don’t expect a huge selection of customization, however, you do have the ability to acquire several suits of armor and relics that increase your characters abilities.  You will also be able to upgrade both your health and magic meters that will let you take more hits while also dishing out some extra damage or if you have the right relic, saving your life!

Anything Else?

Well, what does one do when they have a shovel? They dig for things and old Shovel Knight is no different. In fact, it’s a major part of the game as will come across dirt mounds filled to the brim with gems that are basically the currency of the game. You can also collect sheets of music and turn them into the towns bard, who will then let you listen to that music anytime you want. Remember those games that let you listen to the game’s music via in game or title screen? Yep, it’s awesome to see that Yacht Club Games tossed that in as well.

Least I forget there are tons of references in the game that reflect of the past. There is a town where it feels like Yacht Club Games had simply ripped it from Zelda II, intact with its citizens and bizarre on-goings.

“Hint: Try and jump the back of the lady carrying the water buckets.”

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Yacht Club Games has managed to produce one of the best 8-bit MMetroidvania-style games that have been released as of late, which is a tall order as the quality of those past titles have been outstanding on their own merit.  The graphics are beautifully detailed (for an 8-bit styled game), the sound effects are on point and between unholy fusion Kaufman and Matsumae, the soundtrack is one of best I’ve heard in quite some time.

If the game has anything negative going against it, it’s due to the game not being very long. The game will you about 7-8 hours to beat, however, there is a +new game mode that lets you challenge the baddies again so there is always that.  The difficulty may also put off some gamers as this is a throwback to when platformers required skill and patience to tackle them but If you’re familiar with even the recent Super Mario Bros. for the Wii or WiiU, then I don’t have any doubts that you’ll enjoy the game, regardless of its difficulty.

This is the type of game that will have people asking you “What Nintendo game is this?, which was uniquely funny when I had friends watch me play the game with an Xbox 360 controller in hand and no Nintendo Entertainment System in sight.

  • Who says the classics are no fun?

I definitely recommend this for the casual gamer, hardcore gamer, brand new game, hell... if you're any type of gamer then you must play this game! This indie gem is not to be missed and I hope that Shovel Knight receives a proper sequel (or some DLC?!?)  sooner than later.

It has all the makings of a classic and we could use a new blue character who isn't afraid to kick some ass as this world is sorely missing the original!

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About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. Fan of all video games and technology. Loves long walks in with very long swords in hand.