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Shovel Knight shines in a market of old school imitations

Garrett McBay, Reporter

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Shovel Knight, an indie game by Yacht Club Games, was recently released on the PlayStation 4, inspires feelings of childhood nostalgia all while justifying this admiration with gameplay that sets it aside from the rest. Shovel Knight succeeds in getting things straight; it isn’t just a throw back, but a great game justified by its own merit .

Born in a market currently flooded with games grasping for the “80’s retro platforming game” gimmick, Shovel Knight diversifies itself by actually being well put together and fun to play. Players control the titular shovel-wielding hero as he sets off to stop the evil Order of no Quarter, slashing and digging his way to victory. Though the story isn’t necessarily the next epic tale to be passed down from generation to generation, this type of game does not require a plot. Spread throughout the game are video game jokes and pop culture references that may go over the head of some, but are amazing for those who understand them.

Small touches like this old-school start screen make Shovel Knight feel more like an authentic old game.

Small touches like this old-school start screen make Shovel Knight feel more like an authentic old game.

The game’s controls feel responsive and tight, exactly like a good plat-former should. Shovel Knight travels everywhere on the screen with just the right amount of weight in the way it feels like he should, something that, if messed up, can ruin a retro throwback game. The shovel allows for combat in fun and different ways, from the basic sword swing to pogo hopping from enemy to enemy. As well, this pogo jumping becomes one of the central elements of the game, with many puzzles centering around using enemies as extra jumps to reach a secret area.

Much like the old games Shovel Knight attempts to replicate, this game can be very hard. Death pits, spikes and difficult foes are behind every screen, with devious traps eagerly waiting to show you the way to the last checkpoint. A fun spin on this tried and true restart system is introduced through the loss of money on death. Every time Shovel Knight gets knocked out and has to restart, a portion of his current gold is left behind at his point of death. Getting back to the spot safe and sound gets you your money back, but dying again causes it to disappear forever. The mechanic adds an extra feeling of accomplishment to getting through tougher parts of the game unscathed.

Despite being 8-bit, Shovel Knight does at times feel gorgeous.

Despite being 8-bit, Shovel Knight does at times feel gorgeous.

Though an 8-bit retro art design has become the graphical style of choice recently, Shovel Knight presents itself well enough to get a pass. It’s clear the game was made with care and it looks like someone put an old game cartridge into my modern day console. The levels look amazing, each with their own distinct looks and musical themes, once again done in 80’s video game style. The old-school chip tunes sound like something I could listen to in my car anytime, leaving me anticipating the day someone makes some kind of symphony remix of the tracks.

Despite being introduced in a market filled with imitations of games of the past, Shovel Knight triumphs by being more than just an imitation. Instead of being another 8-bit nostalgia kick, it proves to be a legitimately great game as well.

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