15 Minutes with Shovel Knight
So I sat down with my 3DS to try this game, “Shovel Knight”; this two dimensional 8-bit looking side scroller that seems to be as well received as any immersive 3D, multiplayer or otherwise, premium title. This is an independent title released by “Yacht Club Games” and funded through “kickstarter”. I think that’s pretty cool. “Jake Kaufman”, and “Manami Matsumae” created a retro-styled title as entrepreneurs and it took off like mad. This game has won several awards and has a Steam rating of 10/10 and a Metacritic rating of 4.5/5. How in the world?
As I begin, some back story is presented about the exploits of Shovel Knight and Shield Knight. At some point some chick comes in and seals Shield Knight in a tower. Shovel Knight, not unlike Yoda, goes into solitude and exile. Now we are brought to current time where the tower has been unsealed, and our adventure begins. First thing I notice is the 8-bit matching sound that is actually more lavish than its true predecessors. The polyphonic tones available allow for much better writing (number of tones that can be sounded at one time). My Knight drops in and I start running and jumping.
Shovel Knight’s jump, even in that heavy armor, has every bit of what Mario does, and on top of that – no pun intended – he has a “pogo” trick with his shovel that propels him upward. The gameplay feels a lot like “Mega-man” but slowed down a little for a more comfortable pace to assess the map screen – great for older gamers like myself. I have been warned that some of the main bosses were anything but slow. After I mastered navigating, I started working on the dig!
Lots of cool stuff to dig up in some spots; lots of cool mini antagonist creatures to whack! The jiggly ones double the pogo effect in a helpful and comical way. Some short snags like getting off a ladder – jump button, and pogoing of a bubble while still maintaining forward movement. I have become a creature of new multi angled accelerating controls in newer games and had to recall my roots a little.
My first milestone was a sleeping dragon. Seemed harmless enough, but the bubbles he blows out in his sleep are damaging when they pop, so definitely preemptively pop them first. It took me a sec to figure out an easy way to evade them when dealing blows – no big hints or spoilers but think pogo! I had approached an elaborate torch at one point that lit as I crossed its path. Shovel Knight’s lives are endless, but as I learned, a defeat will take you back to the last torch – Yes! Check points. Much more forgiving than that older arcade style “dead and you’re done” restart!
I ended my 15 minutes at the second check-point and I can safely say that I’ll be playing this game more as time allows. I am anxious to get into more of the plot that is – to say the least – very comprehensive. This game has lots of story, and a really cool new story full of the magic and schemes from another set of antagonists. “Plague Knight” steels the essence of other knights and is toying with alchemy. He enlists an aide, “Mona” the witch and is determined to create a sort of genie potion. I don’t know what his wish will be, but some people just want to watch the world burn!
The update that is available now is “The Plague of Shadows” – The might of Plague Knight has evolved to allow you, the user, to play as this enemy from the current build. This update appears to be available for all platforms, including the 3DS.
From the developer:
“Embark on a new adventure starring Plague Knight, the addled alchemical master of disaster! Featuring a brand new playable character, all new relics, new systems, new boss battles, level tweaks, and a brand new story to adventure through! Is your science up to snuff? Take on Plague Knight specific challenges with new feats! Prove your mettle in challenge mode. Take on speed run challenges, boss rematches, and other rule-benders… and expect some tricky puzzles too!”
Classic stylized games are fun and attractive in nostalgic value, and the truth… gamers just love games. I use the term “style” over “design” in describing these games because though they emulate 8 bit games of the past, they have much more pixel density. If one so desires, they can give their game a very vibrant and smooth appearance, side scroller – 2D or not. The characters in “New Super Mario Bros.” for the Wii are almost cartoonish, having much more shape than the previous 3D world versions of the same franchise. I will always be a devout early adapter to advanced 3D gaming, new systems, and RPGs. I am forever waiting for games to appear as good as the digitally animated cut scenes that they employ. I am excited about the titles coming out for the PS4. It looks as if we are getting close. Sometimes however, we just want a challenge game. Maybe, even a stay and play, dead until you’re done sitting with the original Super Mario Bros. – in color though, the first GameBoy seriously stressed my eyes.
Shovel Knight is available for Playstation, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox, the Wii U, Windows, Mac, and on and on. It is surely worth checking out, just to see what the hub bub is all about. Look for it at retailers, on Steam, App stores, you name it. Pick up a shovel and do something!