Played on Wii U
Despite a never-ending stream of curse words spewing from my mouth, I loved every minute of Shovel Knight.
In case you missed our impressions, Shovel Knight is a modern take on the old-school, 8-bit action platform, and comes from Yacht Club Games. Initially started as a Kickstarter campaign, the game leaves you in control of Shovel Knight as he journeys to defeat The Enchantress and “The Order of No Quarter” in an attempt to find his beloved Shield Knight. Levels are selected via a world map reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3, and gameplay is a classic mix of platforming and action, where one wrong step or missed attack can mean certain death.
Thankfully the game features towns across the map, allowing for you to use collected gold for armor and health upgrades, as well as new items to purchase, and magic increases. Although not required, the various items lend themselves to allowing players to develop their own unique strategies to make it past each increasingly tough level.
Shovel Knight is a tough game. From the first level all the way through to the crushing final chapters, this game is incredibly challenging. Enough so that it gives you a death total at the end of the game – I reached 180 deaths during my near six hour campaign. And as frustrated as I got with myself, I was never frustrated with the game. Only a handful of those deaths I felt might be due to a gameplay flaw or collision detection issue – most of the times I had to admit the truth: I totally blew it on a jump, and would have to start from the beginning of the level.
The developers do extend players a massive courtesy, and provide a few different checkpoints throughout each level, most crucially placing one before every boss. The checkpoints are few and far between though, so if you die (and you will), you’ll still have to do another perfect run through challenging sections just to reach where you died. One cool feature of the game, and associated to the in-game achievements, called feats, is that you can choose to break each checkpoint for a massive gold boost, with the caveat that your death sends you back to the closest unbroken checkpoint. For feat hunters, that means a perfect entire level run is required.
While Shovel Knight is available for PC and 3DS as well, I chose to play the game on the Wii U, and absolutely loved the experience when played on both my HDTV and the Wii U’s Gamepad. I would actually say I played most of the game on the Gamepad, leading to many questions from my wife as to why I chose to use f-words towards characters from Friday Night Lights, which was playing on the big screen.
If you have the patience for a grueling action romp, I can’t recommend Shovel Knight enough. It really is a rewarding treasure of a game, and one of the best downloadable titles out there.