Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shovel Knight Review I Dig Him

I Dig Shovel Knight!

Shovel Knight
PC, Wii U, 3DS

Who will save the day against the Enchantress and the villainous nights of The Order of No Quarter? Shovel Knight, that's who. The blue knight with the Shovel Blade, a weapon so powerful it can not only dispatch a flying rat foe or enemy knight it can also be used as a real shovel. That comes in handy on your quest to rid the land of evil and rescue Shield Knight, your fellow knight and damsel in distress.

Shovel Knight-who should be in Super Smash Bros, he's so darn likable- is the name of the game and the hero you play. The game is reminiscent of older titles, from the obvious copying of Duck Tales' Scrooge McDuck cane jump; level design and boss fights from Mega Man and some level design from Super Mario. One level was like playing Super Mario World so much I nearly laughed. This is not a carbon copy of those game, oh no, this is a game that took in those games and their best attributes and Yacht Club Games, the developer, made their own, sometimes hard to master, platformer action adventure game.

In the style of 8-bit aesthetic, you'll master Shovel Knight's Shovel Blade and his attacks battling the eight evil knights of the The Order of No Quarter, each in their own themed levels. In the end you'll go off to the Tower of Fate to battle their leader the Enchantress. While on your quest you'll find secrets in every level, gain new items, abilities and powers. You'll meet strange new friends and enemies and be reminded of classic games-if you've played them- while beating each of the bad knights.

By performing the Shovel Drop on most of your foes or swatting them away with your Dig Slash you'll counter the threat of sleeping dragons, wizards firing spells at you and tiny rats with propellers stuck to their bodies. Propeller rats might become your favorite enemy like the Mets from Megaman. These rats vary from the not-as-funny-a-concept exploding green rats in the Explodatorium level ruled over by Plague Knight. Enemies aren't just a way to swat away steam, you"ll need them to make certain jumps and reach certain platforms. Shovel Drop gives you a jump boost to reach higher points, this requires you to master where your heading while you take out enemies. If you get good you might take out multiple foes and never touch the ground. Bringing up the rats without rings, the propeller rats in the Flying Machine level of the gentleman jerk Propeller Knight, are good jumping off points. At parts of the level you make your way to far off hard to reach spots by making multiple jumps on their craniums. Oh, do they fall and their tiny propellers fall off. Better than be electrocuted by the flying Jellyfish you can also bounce off of.

Propeller Rat plushie, when will you come out?

Style and substance, the game offers both with levels centered around the bosses you will engage at the end of each of their levels.

Propeller Knight, the mean, slightly green, Inspector Gadget like, fencing machine was my favorite boss, not due to his attack pattern. He summons a flying aircraft to fire on you with bombs and tries to suck you into his propeller helmet. Propeller Knight gains my approval because he's a sophisticated charmer. In the small amount of dialogue we share, merely scrawled out on the screen, he acted like a playboy unaware what he was doing was wrong; trying to show off his flying ship and how nice it. In the end, his defeat is signified with a rose falling with him as the game slows down as he ends his flight.

Bosses and their levels and the changes to gameplay make every level standout with it's own distinct style. Going through them you have Mole Knight with his digging attack and throwing large chunks of the earth at you that you'll have to smash and jump on to dodge his attacks. His Lost City Level changes gameplay with massive amounts of lava and a strange green goo that lets you bounce on it. You'll have to Dig Slash some of this goo into the lava creating another place for you to bounce off. Time it wrong and that green goo turns back to lava and your fried.

Getting on a giant beetle with same green goo on his back and jumping through a section of the level is just bouncing fun.

There's a little line about being a spelunker Mole Knight says that grabbed me as he's level reminded me both of Spelunky and the classic Spelunker.

Polar Knight level differs greatly with the problem of, you guessed it, ice. This ice baby, is just too hot, really it's hard to maintain balance and you could streak off into an enemy or into spikes in the Stranded Ship level. Polar Knight has a much bigger shovel than yours and with it he uses it for evil. If the creepy red-eyed wolves don't get you, he will. His boss fight has you dodging and jumping on huge snowballs he throws at you. Not to make it any easier his boss fight has sections of the snow floor disappear to reveal spikes that can end your life.

Treasure Knight has you in his Iron Whale level, with water changing how fast you jump. You'll learn how to slowly drift in this underwater level to dodge spikes and other hazards. Jump to fast in water and you could hurt yourself. Flat out, Treasure Knight looks like a Big Daddy from Bioshock, and plays like one, dodge his drill attack when he shoots it out at you. He can pull it back and try again and again in multiple directions.

Tinker Knight reminds me of the saying along the lines from small things come big things and his fully automated knight suit armor that fires missiles makes that true. You think you may have defeated him in his first clumsy attack, no you did not. His level, the Clockwork Tower, takes time to get past with all the mechanized gears and rapid moving floors.

You'll have to learn the attack patterns of each boss before you can perform swift justice on each and every one of them by bouncing on their faces

How about shopping? You could select a lovely new hat from Mr. Hat the store owner of fine clothes in the second village you go to. Wait, know he's attacking you for your helmet? What's with this game? After helping some wardrobe missing clients-not what you think-in Mr. Hat's shop you'll be fighting him too? Shovel Knight has extras in it beyond the main path store. You can complete  them and the sudden sick behavior of Mr. Hat is one of them.

Mr. Hat is of the many side pursuits in this game. There's a Hall of Champions you can visit with darker details inside. A mini-game, not so hidden in the first village, where you have to bounce bottles into targets for points for a goth girl. Collect songs for the bard to get paid and have a soundtrack. You'll meet a Troupple Acolyte you can talk to in the starting village too.

Let's talk about the Troupple King. He's not quite a trout and he's not quite and apple. He can save your butt though. The Troupple King, who has his own musical number grants you three types of ichor one of which being full health and magic restore, the other two make you invincible for ten seconds or has all treasure flow to you  when near it in a level. You can buy up to two cups for these extra powers and it works wonders in a boss battle when you're almost defeated.

 The game has a sense of humor with gameplay or there wouldn't be a giant talking fish fruit spitting out magical drinks to heal you.The mere concept of the Troupple King and his servants you can pick up in every level, you can buy a fishing rod that can be used at special places in levels, is that of adding hilarity to the game.

Troupple King is a friend, the wandering enemies are not. During your game four wandering travelers will fight you and block your path, very much in the style of  the Hammer Koopas from Super Mario for the NES. Each wanderer is as strong as a boss. Riez, a ninja with metal boomerangs was a challenge, so was the beefy brute Baz who swung and stomped his way over Shovel Knight in his first attempt to get past him. He cried like a baby after his defeat. Each wanderer has their own story and fight style, don't think you'll take them down without a good shovel to the face.

All these levels were crafted with care. They are not only so hard to beat and master, they also don't drag you so far down as save points are found throughout each of them. If you want to play hardcore you can destroy these save points for extra gems. Don't do this if you want to beat the game in a timely manner, those saves can help a lot.

Gems are numerous  as are the extras in each level. You may really dig up treasure with your blade, how could you not in a game called Shovel Knight? Hidden rooms and hard to reach places can be found in every level for extra gems and musical sheets for that bard. Some of these might require the use of relics.

Relics in this game are power-ups that can help you reach certain areas. Two levels need certain relics to be finished. I found myself using Phase Locket often. A device that phases you out of touching anything that might kill you for a few seconds. Some relics are used to fight enemies, some are for reaching harder to reach places. One is to go fishing in levels.

Any time there's a tower in a game you have my attention. For Halloween a few years back a friend and I dressed up his illegal backyard tower with smog machines and scary items. The tower was taken down years ago, in my heart it remains. The Tower of Fate comprises the end levels of the game and within it is the Enchantress.

The Enchantress, is your enemy who took Shield Knight from you. You must defeat her to get her back. We're getting ahead of ourselves. You first have to foil Black Knight, the first villain you fought in the game. You'll then have to make it through the levels of the Tower of Fate. You'll be crashing a feast of Knight you defeated, they are not to happy about you crashing in and you'll have to fight them all over again.

One tower level uses the wonderful shadow style seen in so many games with a twist. Some platforms can be jumped on some can not, I'll only reveal that you''ll have to deduce which ones are there are and which are not, that's a nice green background.

Soon Shield Knight and you will be re-united... in battle. You work well as a team. You'll fight the Enchantress' new form with Shield Knight. You can propel yourself on her shield to attack the mean witch and use her as a human shield, the correct way as she is Shield Knight.

These final boss fights are the hardest the game gets, as you could fall to your death in them. The first form of the The Enchantress controls the very blocks you're standing on and you'll have to dodge her attacks as she takes the ground from right under you.

Being flung by a catapult as a shortcut the game is only part of the wild ride. Shovel Knight us a reminder of why platformers were fun in 8-bit graphics. Yacht Club Games is one of the only Kickstarted games I can think of that really made a game worthy to buy. The game has tight controls for each of it's levels that a small team tirelessly worked on and perfected. Each level brings to life a different style of gameplay to master and enemy to defeat, while the game has a story and sense of humor to get caught up in. The art only 8-bit makes a very distinct etch in your brain. Each world a different color palette with its own rules.

Replay value for when you want to try and go after every secret or master your attack is there. There's an option of New Game Plus, where it's a bit harder and you have all your items from previous playthrough.

Dig Dug better watch out as Shovel Knight will be remembered more for his digging skills.

Check out TTDILA'S interview with the developers of the Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games here.

Shovel Knight, the fantastic retro-now classic comes out today on PC, Wii U and 3DS from newcomer Yacht Club Games. In short though, the game is well worth the $15 it's going for. Pick it up and have something to play this Summer with everything else on sale from Steam.

This game is like picking up a classic, with non-glitch controls and secrets to unlock in every level.

Shovel Knight ya' done dug up my heart!
Copy code given by developer for review purposes played on Steam