ey there, I'm Cecil, and I'm here to talk to you about video games, the intent is objective review, but bias will nearly always show through, so take everything I say with a small grain of salt.
That out of the way, welcome to my first review!
Today I'll be talking about the wonderful Shovel Knight, by Yacht Club Games. It's an old school SNES era inspired game, and there for a platformer, with crisp controls, a stylish and stylised graphical presentation, and wonderful chiptune music. Since release, Shovel Knight has received a number of free updates, two of which include two full new campaigns, completely for free, that mix up the gameplay by playing the story from a different characters perspective and at different points in the games timeline. I'm here to talk about the main game, however, otherwise I could write a million words about this game. So let's go shall we?
Let's get the most important thing out the way first, is the game fun? Yes. Yes, it is. As I stated in the previous paragraph, the game is inspired by the early days of Nintendo (or at least their video game department), Mario holds some fairly obvious comparisons but I'll touch on gameplay in a minute. The characters add much more than just a bit of story to the game, a large proportion of the npcs that you meet in town are choc full of flavour, personality and usefulness, my favourite of the npcs being the Trouple King. The trouble king is a giant creature that is half apple and half trout, hence the name Trouple, he is both very helpful and very entertaining, the first time you meet him? Well let's just hope you don't have two left feet.
Alongside the Trouple King, there is a small handful of other npcs that you will talk to again and again as the game progresses. In fact, Chester is encountered in the levels as well as town, you encounter him whenever you find a treasure chest that is sure to contain a useful artefact, but Chester has beaten you to it. Chester is a business man at heart so you have the opportunity to purchase the item, so you are not completely out of options.
Good level design and amazing character design stroll hand in hand through the world of Shovel Knight, making this a must play for any fans of platformers, adorable and funny characters, and good old fashioned heroism.
Next up we should discuss the gameplay and the controls of the game. While this game is available on PC and all current generation consoles, even the Wii-u and the Switch, and even 3DS and Ps vita, so getting hold of a copy is really easy. However, in my personal experience, platform games such as this are rather awkward to play with a keyboard and mouse (notably I always had trouble with rogue legacy, which has a similar control schemes) so I personally would recommend a console copy, Nintendo versions even have Amiibo support with a Shovel Knight model being available.
Where was I? Oh yeah, controls. So Shovel Knight being a platformer means a pretty simple control scheme (which in the day and age is welcomed with open arms). You have jump, shovel attack, special attack and movement, (shoulder buttons switch special attacks but you can also do this from the menu, so if you're not a cannot shoulder buttons, you don't have to use them). As the name would suggest, your main weapon is indeed a Shovel. This allows you to not only kill enemies by landing on them from above shovel first, but also allows you to dig up piles of dirt that may include gems and other treasure, which you'll need later for purchasing items and upgrading your health and mana reserve.
One thing that the game thankfully left behind in the 80s and early 90s was a lives system. You can die over and over in this game, with no fear of a game over, so if you get really stuck on a hard part, you can try again to your heart's content, or until you get so frustrated you need a break, hey, it happens to the best of us. The only penalties for death are returning to the last checkpoint (sometimes) and losing a portion of your current treasure cache.
Checkpoints put me on to one of the really nice mechanics this game has. If you think you are really good at this game, or at least good enough to beat the next section, you can destroy checkpoints for a little extra treasure, at the cost of not being able to return to that one if you die. The amount of treasure a checkpoint will give you will depend on the difficulty of the next section, so it’s a system that is helpful either way, as you can see the size of the gem before you break the checkpoint. Checkpoints also take a few hits to break so you don't have to worry too much about destroying them by accident because you hit the wrong button.
Graphically, the game is reminiscent of the golden days of platforming, beautifully detailed sprite work, with amazing amounts of character coming through even with the limited space for art. One the updates that was released for the game included an option to change the gender of all the important characters, i.e. the bosses, who are all knights too, and the player character, you could change each one independently as well, so if you want the game to be about a heroic knight on a quest to save her girlfriend, it can be. So if you really can't stand the guy saves girl paradigm, the game doesn't have to be that way, you get the option also to change pronouns in the dialogue, so you can have a feminine looking character who uses male pronouns and vice versa, which is a really nice touch and just further widens the inclusivity of the game and its characters.
Also Tinker Knight is the most adorable boss.
The soundtrack to this game is one of beauty and nostalgia, chiptune at its finest, each level has music that perfectly suits the mood, the boss music is fast and intense, and the town music is relaxing. You can also find music sheets in most levels that you return to the bard in town in exchange for gold, and the ability to listen to them whenever you're in town just by talking to him, so for you completionist out there, collectibles are to be found, and mostly after a small skill section, so it’s very rewarding.
Finally, the game is begging to be played multiple times, for you to try different techniques and magic items with bosses, finding all the secrets that you might have missed, and most importantly the free updates of two new campaigns, changing how the game is played almost entirely. For instance, the Spectre of Torment campaign sees you playing as Spectre knight, with their scythe and ability to run up walls, Yacht Club Games are good at what they do so they didn't just change the characters abilities, but made completely new levels that are designed entirely around these new abilities, so you're not just rehashing the same levels over and over again with each new campaign.
All in all I have no complaints about this game, other than the fact I'm bad at performers. I thought the presentation was great, the developers to be wonderful, and whole experience very enjoyable and fresh in today's gaming climate. I would highly recommend Shovel Knight for anyone and everyone, young and old.
Thanks for reading, I've been Cecil and you've been great.