When we think of heroes, we think of their strength, persona and ability to look danger in the face and say “not today!”. More often than not, they’re equipped to the brim with a variety of gadgets and weapons. Batman is a billionaire, bulked up to the eyeballs with inventive utensils to help him in a jam. Captain America has his trusty, powerful shield, and Thor has his mighty hammer. So when this heroic legend made his debut, it was shocking to see that he charged head first into battle with nothing more than a shovel. Yes, Shovel Knight takes its title literally, arming him with nothing less than what you could retrieve in a trip to B&Q.
Despite being seemingly underpowered, Shovel Knight spent most of his hayday in tow with his partner, Shield Knight. Alas, one day the two are tragically separated when Shield Knight is sealed in a place known as the Tower of Fate. Spending his years after this event mourning, he’s hung his shovel up in shame and taken to a quiet life. That is until the evil Enchantress wrecks hell across the land, and Shovel Knight must spring back into action in the hopes to beat her and save his beloved.
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. But it plays like an absolute dream. Shovel Knight invokes retro 2D side-scrollers, complete with gorgeous sprite work, wonderful music and pitch-perfect gameplay. Despite embodying the feeling of games from yesteryear, it manages to maintain a modern and responsive control scheme that is to be nothing short of commended.
Shovel Knight has a variety of controls, the main one being his titular shovel. Being a knight of said shovel, you’ll be far from shocked to discover it’s his main weapon throughout the game. He’ll shovel enemies away with deadly swings and take on bosses with the blunt end of his gardening tool. Not only that, but the use of the shovel translates into the rest of the gameplay. Shovel Knight can use his main utensil as a pogo stick to reach higher areas or to dig up piles of dirt in the hopes of obtaining a large selection of treasure.
Alongside this, he’s also equipped with a plethora of relics to aid him on his quest. These assist him with a wide range of abilities, such as being able to fire projectiles or temporary invincibility. It adds a degree of customisation to your character, enabling you to tailor the experience more inline with your playstyle. You’ll often find that some levels are more suited for different relics, often promoting a mix and match style of play as you navigate through.
Gathering treasures is one of the main aims of Shovel Knight and it is a truly addictive hook. The simple act of digging up treasure remains just as satisfying ten hours in as it did originally. The obsession with treasure consumes you fairly early on as you scour every level to a meticulous detail in the hope of finding chests and secret areas bursting with treasure. Going to a hub world allows you to use these treasures to upgrade Shovel Knight in a variety of ways, such as his health or mana gauge. Nothing beats the feeling of returning to town after a successful mission, buffed up with treasures.
The levels themselves provide some really intricate level design. Shovel Knight is not a metroidvania, but a more linear affair. That doesn’t mean exploration isn’t key to coming out victorious. Most levels are packed to the brim with hidden nooks and crannies, begging to be explored. Pushing through these levels can be quite challenging, making each subsequent checkpoint a beacon of hope. Everything from the platforming to the combat just feels right, and often culminates in a boss battle that truly tests your metal with the game.
Since its release, Shovel Knight has released a bucket load of content and adaptly refers to itself now as a ‘treasure trove’. New campaigns have been added, each incorporating new gameplay hooks. One of the standouts being King of Cards, which introduces a card battle mini-game that is as addictive as it is refreshing. There’s also a competitive multiplayer aspect in the form of Shovel Knight Showdown, which is a take on Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. formula. The constant inclusion of new campaigns and modes has made Shovel Knight a package that any fans of the genre would be hard-pressed not to own.
With years of support, a fantastic throwback to games of old and superb gameplay, Shovel Knight on Xbox One is an absolute treat. The initial campaign is worth the price of admission alone, but with the plethora of updates over the years, it’s a must-have for any gamer. The package delivers something for everyone, beautifully marrying multiple genres in one satisfying bundle. Shovel Knight is a testament of getting your money worth for a game, and has definitely dug itself a massive range of incredible content to enjoy.