PAX East 2014: Feeling young again with Shovel Knight

ore often than not, we see independent developers task themselves towards producing games that do nothing more than romanticize games of the past; only a handful of them introduce ideas that stand them tall above the rose-tinted masses one-dimensional nostalgia.

Therefore, it's quite a feat when you see something like Yacht Club Game's Shovel Knight excel by doing the exact opposite. The Blue Digger’s adventure passionately celebrates the giant melting pot of NES tributes that it is and manages to conjure the perfect storm of design that's fun for veterans and new comers alike in the process.

Most platformers focus on delivering a specific nuance for the gameplay to revolve around on top of the typical hop ‘n bop formula. At face value, Shovel Knight initially comes off as a love letter to the Blue Bomber—it’s when it gradually begins to unveil the all subtleties brilliantly pacing the game’s course is where the game goes above and beyond. While the Level structure reeks of the aroma of the little Capcom robot, it’s all of the utilities at the Heroic Knight disposal that players can stretch the most of the game’s depth.

Right off the bat, Shovel Knight’s control and maneuvering is some of the best I’ve ever played in a platformer period. From input to response and the nature of exchange between the two during play achieves the a polished balance of being both intuitive and sharp in every frame, which gave me all of the agency I needed over any challenge hand, and never cheating me when I couldn’t put my mettle to the test.  This foundation alone holds all the glue in place for the retro-cornucopia of design the game boasts.

Our Mining Knight can use a variety of different attacks and maneuvers when hopping about, like a direct shovel thrust or downward Shovel-strike from the air that operates very much like Adventure of Link’s downward strike, only with a hybrid of a DuckTales-inspired pogo leap mechanic when used against enemies or destructible objects in order to get that extra height. In addition, Shovel Knight also has access to sub-weapon abilities alternated between weapon drops you’ll trigger when traversing a stage, and equipment perks from various armors; one for example when purchased, will prevent all forms of knockback (which can even occur when attacking enemies head on) essentially reducing most of the anxiety from areas filled with cliffs.

The mechanics outline here are only just a few of the many layers within Shovel Knight; Each level is designed to direct players into peeling away the veritable onion of elements that it has to offer. Each stage is made of several traditional level elements that are filtered into a more streamlined outline that constantly walks the line of difficulty and immediate instinct in ways that even trump the very same classics that motivated it. Certain aspects like destructible walls that can lead the route to one direction, or be used as a platform to another, more aloof route, are the kind of tests that shakes up the progression in each of the subsequent screens travelled without ever interrupting the activity happening throughout them.

Shovel Knight has been delayed from its previous scheduled release date of March 31st, but  according to Yacht Club Games, is finished, just simply being ironed out of any bugs currently hindering it from the standard they’re upholding the game to; it’s just around the corner and it’s poised to be one of the hits of 2014.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

« PAX East 2014: Getting trigger-happy with Wolfenstein: The New Order | Main | PAX East 2014 - Play Play Special: Nuclear Throne »