Saturday, 31 January 2015

Shovel Knight

Gamespot Score: 7.0 (Good)

My Score: 7.5

(+) Pros: - Solid platforming mechanics, controls are smooth and game flow runs well, - Very clever level design, - Lots of unique weapons and abilities that drastically change your style of play, - Challenging without being TOO cheap, - Puzzles and extras serve to lengthen the game, - Great boss fights.

(-) Cons: - Honestly not much replay value, - Huge difficulty spike midway through the game, - Somewhat a bit on the short side.

Gameplay time: Less than 10 hours

"Shovel Knight" is a simple minded game, very much so. It attempts to bring back the joy of the old school 80s-90s platforming games like "Megaman" and "Metroid". Rightfully so, because its so hard to find good platforming games nowadays, the last one that struck me as REALLY good, was freaking "Monster Tale" for the NDS, and god knows how long ago I played that. "Shovel Knight"...isn't really groundbreaking. It IS a good, solid platforming title, but does it really reinvigorate the genre? No really. Its good, but that's that. Its not really as amazing as some make it out to be. It does have some REALLY fun moments, and I credit it for that, but for what it is, it does not really merit anything more than one solid play through. If you're looking to find one of those old school platforming games, you'll find one in "Shovel Knight", but don't expect it to really reinvest you into this long lost genre.

To its merit, "Shovel Knight" actually tries a lot harder than it needs to be in thinking up a story. For a game like this, story plays a decent part in immersing us into wanting to play the game more, but its ultimately the gameplay that holds it up. You play as Shovel Knight (obviously), a legendary knight that used to kick lots of ass together with his one true love, Shield Knight. Together they were unstoppable, and they shared obvious mutual feelings for one another. However, one day, after the enchantress attacked, Shovel Knight was separated from Shield Knight, and after trying so hard to rescue her, he failed. Depressed, he retreated into a life of doing nothing, until something resparked inside him. Now, with the entire world rooting for him, he is determined to triump the knight of no order, to stop the enchantress and her evil plans. Most importantly, to save the woman that he loved.

Get digging or get dumped!

"Shovel Knight" is a fairly simple game to play and understand. Since it imitates the older platforming games, you should obviously expect it to play like one. Its really just a simple affair of you moving from left to right across a 2D plane. Enemies stand in your way, so do pitfalls and spikes, lots of spikes. On the PC, the game feels quite good to play. Shovel Knight is responsive when it comes to controls, and the game runs smoothly. A lot of recent platforming games feel a bit stiff and rigid, "Shovel Knight" is smooth as all hell, so if you fall off a cliff and die, its your own damn fault (or Polar Knight's level being too damn slippery).

Game flow is simple and similar to old "Megaman" games. You select a stage with a certain boss in it, you tackle the stage which is riddled with checkpoints, enemies and a certain theme that the stage has to it, until you make it to the boss. Kill said boss and you clear the level, simple as that. However in "Shovel Knight", you don't get special powers when you defeat other bosses, instead, your new found powers come from a certain Jester that sells them in town or from secret locations in levels. The town acts as a central hub where you can purchase upgrades to your health pool, mana pool, or just chill and listen to some of the game's pretty sick tunes. There's also another town as you proceed later in the game, that one lets you buy armor and special moves.

Watch out for dat spear!

Of course, the currency in this game is gold, which you get by busting open loot crates and killing monsters. Gold is used for...everything I mentioned above. Buying skills and armor especially, as well as those little trinkets with special abilities sold by the Jester. Dieing in this game has you drop some of your gold, and you'll need to go pick it up when you respawn. Die again and the gold that you previously dropped is gone forever. Sound familiar? This game has a semi-"Dark Souls" mechanic attached to it, punishing you for dieing needlessly without proper consequence. Honestly, gold isn't THAT important as you can pretty much finish the game without using those special trinkets or having any skills as long as you have mastered the game inside out. That takes awhile though, so its better to just not die and use your gold on stuff that you need.

The game's level design is superb. Each boss's stage has its own theme, and the themes are well translated into the level that ACTUALLY affect the gameplay, other than just having different visuals for different levels. The Castle is filled with magic grimoires that spawn platforms for you with pages that allow you to jump on them. The ice level is slipper as all hell with frozen statue platforms that spew out rainbows (don't ask). The airship level has currents that force you through incredibly challenging platforming sections and the graveyard level has endless amount of skeletons respawning, forcing you to find an alternate way through other than just killing them.

What an angry fellow.

Of course, there's a lot more to the game than just regular platforming and shoving a shovel through the faces of your enemies. As mentioned, there are other trinkets and accessories that add to your combat arsenal. You can shoot fireballs, use a sword that lets you dash through mid air. There's even a glove that lets you combo punch through flights and flights of blocks. Hell, there's my favorite and the most broken trinket in the game, one that lets you turn INVISIBLE, letting you pass by any and all attacks, even allowing you to walk on spikes, which are instant kill in this game. Obviously, while these spice up the way you can play the game, they are limited to a certain amount of uses, like the special powers you get in "Megaman" games.

There are also the different armor types and skills that you can learn from the different traders in town. Some armor types lets you take more hits, some let you hit harder, some are just purely for show. And of course, there's the armor that breaks the game, the Magenta armor, which lets you use your trinkets at 2 times the capacity. Picking the right arsenal and focusing on certain things can completely change your style of play, which you should definitely aim for.

I hate science.

Obviously the star point of "Shovel Knight" is the boss fights. These are great, and easily the highlight of this game. They are varied, they look different, they fight differently from another, each and every one of them has a different strategy to go around to defeat them. All of them are really well made and have patterns for you to learn, master, and defeat (except for maybe Plague Knight, which was IMO the worse designed boss in the game because he just randomly throws shit around the entire time without any proper means). What I really like though that the game didn't pick from games like "Metroid" and "Megaman", is that the bosses don't have specific elemental or weapon weaknesses for us to exploit. Its way better for us to learn the boss's attacks, properly dodge, counter and eventually defeat them, usually giving off that sense of satisfaction when you best them (the boss gauntlet at the end was quite sick).

You f**king prick!

"Shovel Knight" itself is a short game, easily cleared below 10 hours, maybe slightly more if you go for all the collectibles and extras, but not by much. For its asking price, that's not too bad (I got it for 5 bucks off steam in a sale), but it does hurt that going through the game in NG+ doesn't really give us anything new other than stronger enemies. There's not really much incentive to play through the game again. The game, while fairly challenging without being TOO cheap, has a massive difficulty spike midway through, as the levels are RIDDLED with instant kills (the enemies or bosses weren't too tough in particular, it's just the stage design).

So that's "Shovel Knight" a simple platforming experience that tries to relive the golden days of the genre. Its a good game with solid platforming, don't get me wrong, but there's really not much that bears it to legendary status as many reviewers have been giving it. Not in my opinion, at least. Its still fun, and if you ever wanted a solid platformer, "Shovel Knight" can fulfill your needs for a price that's not too demanding.

Happy Gaming.