REVIEW: Shovel Knight

Friday, June 27th, 2014

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Before I get too distracted, let me briefly discuss the music. As amazing as the gameplay is, the music is somehow even better! Every retro track lends a unique tone to the different stages, and they are all retro masterpieces. This is probably due to the fact that it was a collaboration between the talented Jake Kaufman and Manami Matsumae, of Mega Man fame. I can’t describe it well enough, but take a listen to Propeller Knight’s theme and try not to drool:

Also of note are the beautiful pixelated graphics. The artistry of the folks at Yacht Club Games is incredible. Not only are the designs complex and vibrant, but even the most random NPC shines with personality. Even Shovel Knight himself, whose face we never see outside that helmet, radiates personality and spunk. It’s remarkable. Even though the game is trying for a NES vibe, many of the larger enemies are made of multiple segments, allowing for utterly huge and detailed encounters. They also somehow managed to make the 3D effect work, even without the slider turned on. Though I wouldn’t venture you need to play in 3D, it does look nice.

Shovel Knight - Bubble Dragon | oprainfall

Lazy dragon, get outta my way.

So, you’re probably wondering if Shovel Knight did anything wrong? Well, while there are no glaring errors in the game (thank God), there are some areas that could use a bit of fine tuning. While it is true the game design was never so sloppy it resulted in deaths, towards late game it gets a bit brutal. If you’re not on your A-game, you will be dying a lot. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, what with infinite lives, except for the money bags. See, every time you die, your loot flies off in three bags. You can reclaim it, but many times I died in cramped areas near spikes, and the money bags would fly just a bit too close for comfort. Considering how much money you need to spend to unlock things, this was a bit of a problem. However, the argument can easily be made that you don’t have to buy anything to beat the game, but doing so certainly helps as the game constantly ramps up the difficulty from one area to the next.

Shovel Knight - Explodatorium | oprainfall

This level will give me nightmares later…

Because I don’t have any friends close who own a 3DS, I was unable to experience the StreetPass features. From research I know they allow you to record a battle blind of Shovel Knight vs. Shovel Knight, which is recorded and then carried out when you pass someone, but it’s hard to say more until I try it out. I will update this or do a quick article with the information once I have had an opportunity to do so.

Shovel Knight - World Map | oprainfall

Hardest 2nd boss EVER

So, the question remains – was Shovel Knight worth the time and the hype? The answer is a resounding yes! The game not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them in many respects. From my experience with it at PAX Prime last year, I had no inkling of how challenging the final version would be. That said, it is not the longest experience. I managed to beat the story mode in a little less than four hours. I still have more items to find, since I beat it with only 66% item completion, and only achieved some 24% of the various Feats. They are accomplishments awarded for various actions, and can be checked from the start screen. I’m sure they will also lend some replay value as I come back to it. Overall, though, I was well pleased with Shovel Knight. Not only was it worth my wait, I venture many who didn’t back it would do well to buy themselves a copy now. It’s only $15, and for that price is much better than the drivel put out by many larger studios. I only hope Yacht Club Games doesn’t sit on their laurels, and I anxiously anticipate a new game in the near future. Until then, I’ll be shoveling my way through New Game +. For Shovelry!

Review Score

Review Copy Provided by Publisher for Review Purposes

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.

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