Friday, November 24, 2017

Shovel Knight (Everything, 2014)

It's time for A Shovel Knight Thanksgiving: A trio of posts for the weekend. This is a game I've been wanting to cover on here for a while. It's an indy sensation from 2014 that I was a bit late to the party on; didn't get around to it until mid-2016. It has taken me 15 months to get around to doing posts on the game, but one thing is for sure: This is absolutely the kind of game I like covering on here. Let's get to it.

I played this during the weird phase of time (2014 to 2016) where I was naming all of my game characters "ASS".

Back in the day, Shovel Knight and his partner in crime, Shield Knight, roamed the land and fought monsters. They also had massive groin-guards, no doubt to protect their seismic balls.

Unfortunately, bad things are afoot. Shield Knight has been captured. Shovel Knight will stop at nothing to save his friend/lover/sister/not sure.

The villains include this rogue's gallery of malcontents, led by Edea from Final Fantasy VIII.

Right off the bat, you can tell that this game is an evolution of classic NES platformers. It's full of audio/visual cues and references to some of the greats, drawing inspiration from everything from Mega Man to Castlevania.

The music is extremely Mega Mannish, as well. Check it out. It's a highly enjoyable soundtrack.

Shovel Knight primarily attacks Ducktales style by pogoing off of enemy heads with vertical shovel jabs. He can also swing at enemies on the ground. It's a lot like Zelda 2, but with decent controls.

One of my favorite NES game tropes is alive and well here: Giant, cool-looking minibosses.

There are a ton of collectibles to find in the game, but I was primarily focused on just getting through to the end. I was expecting the difficulty to be sky-high, given the retro theme, but the difficulty is actually very moderate. It's nothing compared to other retro-styled games like Cuphead, Super Meat Boy, or even Axiom Verge.

The main threat in this game, as is tradition: Pits. Luckily, the controls are so good that you can avoid falling into pits fairly easily. Bouncing off of midair enemies is a good way to stay out of danger.

The objective of the game is to go through and face off with the knights of the Order of No Quarter. There are a bunch of them, and each one has their own special abilities and gimmicks. It's a lot like the boss lineup of a Mega Man game, only without the stage select. For the most part you have to fight these guys in a set order early on, though the game opens up as it progresses to give you some options as to who to go after next.

This, like most of the bosses, is a super-fun fight where your best bet is to pogo off of his head as much as possible.

Defeat the Black Knight and we get an awesome cutscene that reminds me of Chrono Trigger. One of the cool things about the character Shovel Knight is that he spends a lot of time just sitting around and chilling. Like a cat.

Between stages, our hero dreams about rescuing Shield Knight as she falls out of the sky. It's gonna be super dark if he goes through all of this and defeats the Enchantress, only to have a delivery guy show up with Shield Knight's head in a box.

Here's the overworld. It's got that NES-style board game-esque appeal. There are a couple of stages to choose from now, and those stages will unlock the squares to the east. First, there's an entire town to explore.

This town is brimming with personality, like this prancing lad who buys any music sheets you've found.

Shovel Knight then gets totally shut down by this lady with a deer for a head.

And here's the goat-man, who has the two most attractive people in town working for him. Much like Zelda 2 you can choose which attribute to upgrade, and I generally stuck to health for the first part of the game.

Return here with Meal Tickets to get the health boosts in question. You'll get these after every couple of bosses you defeat, plus you can buy them (for an exponentially-increasing amount).

These two chalices are extremely useful, as they're essentially your refillable Zelda Bottles for this game. You've got a few choices of potions for them, too. I really like this idea.

Shovel Knight isn't always a hero. He's actually a deeply-flawed protagonist. He could help this lady carry buckets, and instead...

...he jumps aboard! What bastardly behavior!

Filling the chalices is a matter of visiting the nefarious Troupple King, who looks like he just got caught dipping into his own supply. There are three choices of Ichors that you can put in a chalice: One restores health/mana, one makes you invincible for ten seconds, and one makes you a magnet for enemy loot. I stuck to the health potion for most of the game, but the invincibility potion may be more efficient later on.

Choose an ichor and the Troupple King will dance. Yep, definitely been dipping into his own supply...and it's awesome.

The most impressive thing is that his crown stays on while he performs the Dance of the Troupple.

There are two choices for what stage to tackle next: The Lich Yard (Specter Knight) and Pridemoor Keep (King Knight). I tackled the Yard, though it seems like the Keep is the intended next stage.

This level is undead-themed, with some giant enemies that are way easier to defeat than they look.

Our hero runs into a field-merchant, as I realize this game has the most charming merchants since Secret of Mana. Wait a second...that one frog is skateboarding on another frog! My God!

Specter Knight is all about death and stuff, and summons various undead to attack you over the course of the battle. This fight is all about learning his pattern, which is consistent enough that you can keep dodging him even when he turns the lights out near the end of the battle.

Pridemoor Keep is significantly prettier than the Lich Yard, and reminds me of a late-NES Mega Man level. Maybe I'm thinking of Knight Man in Mega Man 6.

This level has a great stage theme, as the soundtrack continues to impress.

Aside from lots of pogoing, jumping, and slashing, there's a lot of treasure-collecting in this game. It's always exciting to find a new treasure chest and collect whatever gold or gems lurk within.

This one is home to a merchant who sells you the Fire Rod from Zelda.

In proud Mega Man tradition, here's the latest path-blocking miniboss. Ya know, so many NES-era minibosses would have been skippable if you could jump higher...

King Knight is odd because he thinks he's the king of all the land, even though he's a knight.

Shovel Knight lets him have it! Squatter's Rights means NOTHING here!


Here's King Knight in action (not my game, unfortunately). Behold how gaily he prances!

Finish those two levels and we now have access to the next phase of the map, which has three more levels to do: The Iron Whale (Treasure Knight), The Lost City (Mole Knight), and my personal favorite level: Plague Knight's Explodatorium. More on this game tomorrow.


  1. That fish is awesome. I bet there's a lot you can do in ten seconds.

    That is a brutal dandy smackdown. What a cool game.

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