Review: “Shovel Knight” is a Strange Success

Reporter Brooke O’Flaherty reviews “Shovel Knight,” a new game in which the player takes the role of a small blue knight armed with a shovel.

Brooke O'Flaherty, Reporter

“Shovel Knight,” an indie game replicating the retro aesthetic and feel of 2D 8-bit side-scrollers created by Nintendo, was released by the small company Yacht Club Games in June 26, 2014. In the main campaign, the player takes the role of a small blue knight armed with a shovel, searching to bring justice by defeating the Order of No Quarter and the Enchantress and to get his friend shield knight back.

The game controls well with two buttons (aside from the d-pad) being “jump” and “thrust,” which can be combined in a downward thrust where Shovel Knight “pogos” off of enemies and obstacles; puzzles are built around the mechanics of the controls, and the game plays with the player’s greed. Like “Dark Souls,” Shovel Knight has no life stocks: you lose money when you die. Many times while trying to gain further riches, I found myself losing thousands of dollars from death. “Shovel Knight” does have cheeky moments, but for the most part controls very well with mechanics and puzzles the player can independently figure out in a reasonable amount of time. Though the game is relatively difficult with its maneuvers it demands of the player, it truly has an incredible learning curve, and gives the player the control over difficulty through the option to buy extra hit points, mana, runes, armor, or shovel upgrades; alternatively, the player may spend all their money on the “Ornate Plate.” The choice is yours.

Aesthetically, “Shovel Knight is a beautiful game that even lets the player can choose the gender of Shovel Knight and all the knights of the Order of No Quarter. Scenes span from a kingdom to a graveyard to a plague doctor’s mystic home to a cornfield at night, with enemies from dragons to rats with a helicopter propeller bound to their backs.

Yacht Club Games’ most successful game “Shovel Knight” has become the parent series to three other games, which are all included in “Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove”; included are the main campaign “Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope,” three smaller campaigns where three of the knights of the Order of No Quarter are playable being Plague Knight (“Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows”), Specter Knight (“Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment”), and soon King Knight (“Shovel Knight: King Knight’s Campaign” (working title)) and “Shovel Knight: Battle Mode.”

“Shovel Knight” is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Nintendo 2/3DS, Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh, Fire TV.