By Jason Quinn / December 24th, 2019
|Title||Shovel Knight: Showdown|
|Developer||Yacht Club Games|
|Publisher||Yacht Club Games|
|Release Date||December 10th, 2019|
|Platform||PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
Shovel Knight: Showdown is one of the last expansions to Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, and this one stands out as being a multiplayer focused fighting game rather than a 2D platformer. It still feels very similar and familiar since it’s also 2D, has mild platforming, controls basically the same, but the point of the game is of course very different.
The story takes a backseat in a game like this, but there still is one. A magic mirror sucks the various Shovel Knight characters into its weird dimension, they fight it out for one reason or another, and then defeat the mirror and go back to the regular world with the events of this game essentially never having occurred. Even though it doesn’t affect anything in series canon, its still an enjoyable story with the same fun writing that exists in Shovel Knight and its expansions.
One would not be entirely inaccurate to compare this game to Super Smash Bros. There’s a story mode where you take a character through various fights, occasionally with different themes. These can be 4 player free for alls, 2 vs 2 team matches, 1 vs 3 matches, matches against a horde of opponents that die in one hit, among other things. There’s even a mini-game where you have to destroy targets using your character’s unique moveset. The normal versus mode is probably where you’ll spend the most time if you’re playing this with friends, and you can customize game types to your exact preference.
To be totally accurate with this game, I think its better to say it’s much more Shovel Knight with a versus mode twist, rather than a fighting game in the style of Shovel Knight. Most of the mechanics work exactly how they did in Shovel Knight, but with some tweaks here and there. Each character has a life bar of only 4 pips. Every attack in the game does exactly one pip of damage, and after taking damage, you’re impervious to further damage for a couple seconds. This means you can’t just go to town on someone. Combos are definitely not a thing in this game, you’re basically just trying to land a single hit at a time, which is often harder than it sounds.
Characters only have a handful of attacks, what with there being only two attack buttons. Some attacks require holding the button to charge it up first, some attacks have directional inputs, but its a very simple system. You can come to grips with how a character plays in seconds. There’s no complicated inputs or executions to master here. As fighting games go, the barrier of entry here is very low. Your movesets are smaller even than your full movesets in the other expansions.
Unique to this game is a parry move, which negates any attack. The parry isn’t too good however, as it doesn’t give you a free hit. Your opponent can still move out of the way, or do their own parry. This is why its often hard to land an attack. Rushing in with no game plan means you’ll often just be shut down with the parry. The best way of attacking is to punish attacks that have a long recovery in which your opponent can’t parry. Many characters can also set up situations in which it’s difficult to parry attacks. With the game having basically no execution barrier, its entirely about outsmarting your opponent.
The two main game types are simply beating your opponent until they run out of lives, or stocks, if you’re used to Super Smash Bros. The other involves collecting gems that spawn around the map, and whoever has the most at the end of the round wins. Functionally these two aren’t too dissimilar, as defeating your opponent causes them to drop some of their gems. There’s plenty of ways to customize your matches too, the time limit, how many lives you have, you can even turn off items and stage hazards if you want a more pure versus experience. There’s also “cheat” options for fun things like making all attacks a one hit kill, making players giant, increasing jump height and run speed, among other things.
Speaking of items, most of them are just small little assists rather than anything that changes your moveset. The game being very simple, items just do their own thing, like a laser that automatically shoots periodically, or a pet that follows you and attacks others.
The story mode is where you’ll be spending probably most of your time if you want to unlock the full roster of characters and stages. Each character has their own story, though it basically just consists of a few cutscenes. Still, it has some charming dialogue. The story ends with, obviously, a boss fight. However given the boss fights in the rest of Shovel Knight and its expansions, I found this end boss fight to be pretty lacking. I won’t spoil what it is, but after the first time fighting it, I was pretty unimpressed. Especially because given the random nature of the fights in the story mode, it can generate fights that are more challenging. Though, I suppose not many people will play through this expecting fantastic boss fights.
If you don’t want to bother unlocking characters and just want the full roster immediately, there are some cheat codes you can enter to assist you. There’s a cheat that unlocks all characters temporarily, and won’t save your game after entering it. That way if you want to unlock everything the traditional way, you can still do that, and have everything for if you want to play with your friends. Or you can just unlock everything permanently. I don’t know if there will be Shovel Knight: Showdown tournaments, but if there are, then there’s no worries about having everything available.
It should be mentioned that there’s no online multiplayer here. Running multiplayer servers is probably beyond the scope of a small developer like Yacht Club, unfortunately. I wonder about the future of this game. I just don’t see a lot of folks playing this in the future, though I suppose I could be wrong.
Evaluating this game is pretty tricky. I certainly had fun with what I played. As far as being a versus mode of a much larger game, its a neat little novelty that some folks might play around with for a couple hours. As its own game? Hard to recommend, unless you maybe have a friend group of passionate Shovel Knight fans. Though in that case, I’d assume they would have Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove already, and thus this is just a free update. It’s $10 on its own, which certainly is a fair price. However, I’d say Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove at $40 is a better deal. With that you get Shovel Knight and three additional full campaigns, as well as Showdown. At that price, you’re basically getting Showdown as a free bonus.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.
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