Game: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Available on; Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC)
That’s not a knife, that’s a… is that a shovel?
Now that I have only one assignment left this year, I decided that I needed a little time to game. I have a few games that I’m halfway through and a backlog that is quickly growing larger every time I look, I decided that I’d check a game off that list.
So I chose Shovel Knight… let me just say… I died 196 times… I needed a game… to help me relax… and I chose Shovel Knight. Stress-free I was hoping for… I’m an idiot.
The game is packed with nostalgia for old SNES games, which unfortunately was a little lost on me, I was a little too young to play the SNES and when I was old enough I was playing the PlayStation or the GameBoy. But that is not to say that it wasn’t refreshing, the story wasn’t hugely fleshed out and the focus was clearly on the gameplay, which was actually a nice change, but it was really challenging.
You play as Shovel Knight, a hero who has lost his partner at the Tower of Fate, Shield Knight. After she was lost, Shovel Knight goes into a secluded life, until the land is overrun by The Enchanter and The Order of No Quarter. (Yes, that’s actually their name, it’s really fun to say.). You have basic abilities, such as the ability to jump and use your shovel to dig up treasure piles, break blocks or fight enemies. The death mechanics are simple, instead of the classic lives system, (Which seems to be dying out rather quickly) you drop money every time you die. You can retrieve the money, but the game is a platformer, so naturally you fall off the map to your death, in my case a lot. What’s irritating about this is that the money that you lost, is now flying over a cavern that will lead you to your death, it can be a problem.
There is also an interesting risk/reward system that the developers have implemented into the game, this comes in the form of checkpoints. Now the checkpoints act like ones we are used to, if you die you spawn back at your previous checkpoint. simple. But in the case of Shovel Knight, you can in fact break the checkpoints to gain a substantial amount of money. Therefore rewarding you for beating the game with no deaths, or even a section of the map you know you’re good at, with no deaths.
The game features two hub cities; The Village, which is where you can upgrade your health and mana. You can also buy new relics, which are items that allow you to use new abilities, such as an air dash or the ability to throw projectiles. The second hub city is the Armor Outpost; which is the area where you can buy new armour and upgrades for your shovel. There are some interactions within the cities, including hidden music scrolls (The games collectables) and some hidden bosses.
Throughout the game, I didn’t bother grabbing all of the secrets or collectables but I’m questioning whether I should potentially try and collect them next time. The game does an amazing job of rewarding the player for exploration, there are hidden walls you can break with your shovel and hidden areas that relics can get you too. It is satisfying to find a hidden relic, but irritating when the vendor pops up and demands you pay for it, prompting you to pay for it. If you don’t, you will have to pay more for it in The Village, which can be slightly irritating. It’s the game saying “Hey! Well done for getting here… but see all that gold you lost trying to get here? You’re probably going to need that for the new shiny Relic that may or may not help you!” It’s also the games way of saying “Get good mate”.
The boss fights are where this game shines, from the quirky and humorous dialogue before the fight and the battle itself was a joy. Each boss level introduces a slight progression system, in that each level introduces a new threat or environmental hazard. These hazards or threats will be used against you during the fight, leading to an organic feeling fight that will always push your limits.
My personal favourite; or the one I raged at the most, was Specter knight, who is based on the grim reaper. This fight was bullshit, there is a move that Specter Knight has, he throws his scythe and it moves around the map. Simple right? Just jump over it… or avoid it… but no, I swear that move hit me nine times out of ten. It was the most satisfying kill by far.
One of my main irritations with shovel knight comes with the final fight, so I suppose this is a spoiler warning? However, the games been out for a few years… so where does the spoiler stop becoming a spoiler? I don’t know… If you haven’t played the game and want to witness the ending stop here and skip past the bold and indented text.
The final fight is with The Enchanter as you would expect, she is the main villain, therefore must die and the fight is beautiful and difficult. After defeating the first stage of the boss fight, you finally save Shield Knight. We can now see how the legendary team of Shovel Knight and Shield Knight fight together in the final stage of the boss fight in which The Enchanter grows huge.
The second stage of the fight is where I get irritated, Shield Knight is saved and you must work as a team to destroy the enchantress. Now free from The Enchantress, Shield knight will hold her shield up and allow you to jump off it to reach The Enchanters head, the problem is, she doesn’t signal very well that she is about to do this. It can be frustrating, especially when The Enchanters head hitbox is so small, that trying to land two or three hits can be a nightmare.
But that does not mean that the final fight isn’t good, it can just be frustrating. Was it the most difficult fight? For me… no. Specter Knight was the fight that I struggled with the most and I think this is where that nostalgia factor comes into it for me. It reminds me of the times where games didn’t spoon feed you easy fights, where you would have to find a friend that could do a certain part of a game and you would help them in areas where they were stuck. Of course, I didn’t have that liberty for Shovel Knight, I had to just cry and shout into my pillow until I could beat the game and It was truly a satisfying completion.
Shovel Knight is one hell of a game, and I really recommend anyone pick it up. Plus it is on the majority of game systems so double check your store, it’s well worth a playthrough if you enjoy platformers or if you enjoy a difficult game.