After a hugely successful release into the digital store, earning over 100 different awards, and selling more that 700,000 copies, the classic action adventure game from Yacht Club Games is set to appear on shelves in retailers later this year.
It will be available on Xbox One, PS4, 3DS, Wii U and PC in Europe on October 16th, and in America on October 13th.
Check out our review of Shovel Knight, and see why we gave it 92%.
When I was asked to review Shovel Knight, I was in two minds. Some might say that neither of those minds were my own. As one of the elder statesman on the TiX team, I have very fond memories of some of the home entertainment sector’s greatest offerings when it comes to 8-bit and 16-bit platformers. Indeed, most of my formative gaming years were spent joystick bashing to the delights of Dizzy, Magic Pockets, Rick Dangerous and of course, Ghosts ’n’ Goblins. Would Shovel Knight live up to my memories, would it exceed them, or would I be left hankering for the good old days?
To say Shovel Knight has its roots firmly in the 8-bit era would be an understatement. It’s a symphony of 8-bit simplicity. If Shovel Knight’s visuals were a cake, it’d be a Victoria sponge. Not just any Victoria sponge though, it would be a Women’s Institute award-winning sponge, with jam and cream and little dab of icing sugar over the top to finish it off perfectly. The graphics are blocky, and simplistic and that is the whole point. It’s not burdened by slick, realistic visual effects and it makes the game.
The story is pretty simple. In days of old, there were two adventuring knights, Shovel Knight and Shield Knight. They journeyed across the world together, and while exploring the Tower of Fate, Shield Knight was enchanted by a cursed amulet sealed herself in the tower and left Shovel Knight all alone, who placed himself in exile. An evil Enchantress rose to power. Stories are fed and the Tower of Fate is unsealed. Shovel Knight wants to rescue his beloved and begins his journey back. Shovel Knight must face the Order of No Quarter, eight dastardly foes to defeat along the way to rescue his beau.
So, the graphics will not have you shouting from the towers unless you are a particular connoisseur of two-tone blocks and basic colour-schemes, so the gameplay will have to make up for it, right? I mean, us oldies, we’re always harping on about how the games back in the day had more playability than you could waggle a joystick at. Shovel Knight has gameplay, in droves.
Controlling your garden-implement wielding character is simplicity itself. This is a side-scrolling platformer in the Dizzy mould, with platforms, ladders and areas of special jumping interest to explore. Your shovel can be used to dig for treasure, attack your enemies or as an aid to jumping to other platforms. This is achieved by a flick down on the controller as you jump, Shovel plants his feet on the edges of his shovel and plummets towards the target, be that a bubble or a dragon. This lets you get extra height and helps you to more inaccessible platforms and ladders.
These ladders and platforms form part of the experience and there is more to Shovel Knight than simply running, jumping and battling. Our chivalrous hero has the opportunity to interact with characters and to purchase health and magic upgrades. There are villages on the way to the Tower of Fate that you access from a world menu system, a little like the Super Mario level selection world. In the first village you’ll encounter, you will meet the Bard, who wants you to collect sheet music for him, which he’ll exchange for money. There is also a little fishy side-quest that is a nice distraction from the leaping and digging. The controls are simplicity itself to pick up, you’ll have them mastered in no time.
In keeping with the 8-bit theme, the game clips along to a chiptune soundtrack by Jake Kaufman which compliments the game greatly. The in-game sounds are a plethora of blips and bloops and, in glorious stereo, these bring the nostalgia back and it’s good.
Just like many other nostalgic trips down memory lane, this one comes with save points. These are strategically placed around each level and are activated by walking past them. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can smash these with your shovel for more currency, although this effectively takes out the save point, so if you die, you’ll head back to the previous point. If I have a single complaint, it would be that the auto-scrolling levels are a little too unforgiving and you die very easily from a single missed jump. Even in the act of dying, the game gives, with the opportunity to claim back some of the currency you’ll lose by expiring.
Die you will, as well. The levels are big enough to lose yourself in but not so big and confusing as to get lost and give up. This isn’t a labyrinth, but there is generally more than one path to the inevitable end-of-level baddie. The balance of difficulty is just about spot on for the genre too, you die, yes, but you’ll want to come back for more. Usually because you’d done something daft and missed a jump, or been caught out by the Black Knight’s jump attack. This is one of the key aspects of the games of yesteryear that’s been caught perfectly. That nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you know you can beat your opponent. It was a simple mistake you made. You’ll just have another go and you’ll crack it.
All in all, I was nervous about reviewing Shovel Knight, but in the end, I needn’t have been. This isn’t just a homage to the 8-bit classic platformers, it ploughs its own path in a field long thought to be laid fallow. The graphics aren’t the pixel-perfect, life realistic offerings that we know the hardware is capable of. Instead, you have everything you need, a hero, a villain, a story and all the incidentals along the way, wrapped in a perfectly playable platforming romp that had me hankering for an Xbox One compatible Powerplay Cruiser joystick. This is a treasure chest full of nostalgic touches, even if it isn’t absolutely perfect, Shovel Knight should be your introduction to platforming on the Xbox One.
Thanks to Yacht Club Games for supplying TiX with a download code
Now I love games and when Dave emailed me and asked if I wanted to go to EGX:Rezzed in London for TiX I jumped at the chance, who wouldn’t. So with book and pen in hand I trundled off on the Thursday with my press pass like it was my first day at school. Situated at the Tobacco docks in London it was a great venue for developers of all shapes and sizes to come and show us what’s coming to console and PC (windows 10) in the up and coming months.
Walking through the door I already had my shortlist of games I wanted to see, thanks to Phil and myself, and headed straight for the ID@Xbox room. The room was busy with gamers, developers and press but I still found that I had enough room to walk around and spend some quality time on the games, chatting and sharing views and opinions with like-minded people. My main focus here though was several key titles, SMITE, Soul Axiom, Super Dungeon Bro’s and Shovel Knights but that’s not to say there are several other great titles coming, including Goat Simulator (that everyone is mad about, apart from me).
SMITE – Having received the Alpha invite 24hrs before I’d already had a taste for the game and wasn’t disappointed. The game is a smooth (yet frustrating at times) combat sim where you get to level up characters and earn new skills while you fight. All at the same time of being the god you want. It’s a good game but I found it a bit repetitive especially when you pick the wrong god to fight with. I know there is a lot of demand from people to get a taste of this game so keep you eyes open and head to the SMITE site to sign up for the beta.
Soul Axiom – I got to play this at about 75% completion but it’s still in Alpha – the game looks stunning and brings an interesting twist with two abilities, the left hand gives and the right hand takes and with these skills you solve numerous task within a stunning environment. It’s definitely a title that you should have on your radar, a huge effort has been made to integrate a story without restricting the player too much within the adventure.
Shovel Knights – a top down view of pretty much a hack and slash of stick men. You have the ability to pick up an assortment of weapons and hack your way to defeating opponents. This is met with a gratifying pixellated blood splatter and you start all over again. A very simple yet very addictive concept that had people queuing up all day to play it.
Super Dungeon Bros – Now I kept this to last as seriously this game blew me away. Developed by Wired Productions, the game focuses on four heroes moving through a series of dungeons fighting monsters and avoiding traps. The whole game is based around teamwork. The closer you are to your team members, the more powerful your specials are and there is even an ability where all the players form a tower and create a cyclone of devastation. Speaking to Kevin Leavers (senior Producer) he explained that even the maps you face are all randomly generated so you never feel like you’re playing the same level over and over again. The beauty of this game is that it’s also cross-platform so you can play side by side on Xbox and Windows 10. I will look to cover this further in a more dedicated review but all I would say for now is to keep a close eye on this one.
Having left the ID room I moved to Team 17 to preview LA Cops. This is a top/side on shooter where you control two police officers during various missions. I seemed to get shot a lot on this and my gung-ho approach didn’t work as well as expected but the game is solid and plays well and out now to buy on the Xbox marketplace. Check out TiX’s review on this for more information.
One of other big titles I was keen to track down was Project CARS, it was said to be here and I eventually found it tucked in a corner of the Bafta Inside Games room on a single machine with a couple of posters above it that I would find on my sons bedroom wall. Why? I have no idea because the game is amazing. I know it has been delayed again and again but the version I played was close to 100% complete, all options and online playability were available and all tracks, career and cars where there for the taking.
Speaking to the representative he stated, just like the recent press release, “We don’t want to be someone who releases a game and is not happy with it or has to release a patch on day one. We want it to be perfect for the community having pent over 3 years on this we don’t want to face just mediocre reviews, we want people to love this”. I have to agree, I played the game and at first I thought the controls were sluggish and pulled to the left only to realise I had a flat tyre and my pit crew were telling me I needed to head in for a change. The game is amazing and if you are a petrol head like me and want a real true to life racing game then this is the one.
The other game Phil asked me to track down was Carmageddon: Reincarnation. Purely for the PC at the moment this game looks great and brings back the memories from the old days of playing Carmageddon. Now will this come to the console, the guys I talked to could not either confirm or deny but a hunch and a wink tells us to watch this space.
It was great to mingle with like-minded people and experience some of the exciting things coming to Xbox and to Windows 10 cross-platform. I also have to add that I spent some quality time with our friends from Special Effect looking and learning about what they do for kids and they truly are an amazing organisation. I know Dave is running the London Marathon for them this year and if you can, please do drop him a few pennies (or dollars) – they are a really worthwhile cause. If you want to learn more about them check out their site here.
More in-depth views and games reviews will be coming soon so stay peeled and watch this space.
Just when you thought it was safe to delve back into the ID@Xbox program. I’m back, this time looking at Yacht Club Games’ retro-looking Shovel Knight.
Think of a cross between Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Rick Dangerous and the playability of Chuckie Egg and you won’t be far from the mark. Shovel Knight takes the playability level and wraps a shovel around the back of it’s head for good measure. Take on huge bosses, jump, climb, fight. Listen to the infectious in-game music and laugh whole-heartedly at the humour and levity, lest Shovel Knight comes after you.
This appeals greatly to my gaming instincts and if you’re not convinced then take a look at the trailer, turn your gaming instincts on, fetch your man-at-arms and have your seconds deliver a challenge. I’ll be happy to prove the folly of your ways upon the tourney field, knave.
Now, as if that wasn’t reason enough, Yacht Club Games have announced an appearance by some special guests. Have a look at the snippet below and see if you can guess who. The rumour is, this might not be their only appearance in a game in the near future.