I’m pretty sure the first question many of you will have is: “Why are you talking about this game? It’s been out for a while and everybody knows about it! You big dummy!” Childish and slightly hurtful comments aside, indeed it has been out for about 2 years now, however I have two reasons for talking about it now. The first being that because my backlog is so special I am just now getting to it, and the second is that given the recent catastrophic release of Mighty No. 9, I figured it was a good time to look at what a successful Kickstarter looks like.
For those of you who don’t know, Shovel Knight is designed to be a love letter to the 2-D Platformers of old, kind of like how Batman: The Brave and the Bold was a tribute to the Silver age of comics, according to Paul Reubens anyway. Every level tends to have its own gimmick, and they do what games back in the day used to do before tutorials were in literally every game ever because somehow it’s hard to figure out how to make your character walk. What I mean by this is that at the start of each level, and sometimes before the start of new sections within the levels, they usually have an area set aside to help you better understand the mechanics that you will be required to face. And you really need to pay attention to this if you want to survive.
Survival is key in this game for one big reason, money. You see, Shovel Knight is ultimately a treasure hunter, and yes while the main story revolves around him trying to get to the Tower of Fate in order to rescue Shield Knight, money is what makes the world go around. The reason for this is because: A. It will allow you to buy new items and upgrades, and B. If you die, you lose money. It’s very Dark Souls-esque in that matter. When you inevitably die in Dark Souls, your collected souls are left behind, the same is true with Shovel Knight and your money, and you can pick both back up wherever you died at. However, also like Dark Souls, if you die before you can recover your lost souls/money, it’s gone for good.
In terms of difficulty, Shovel Knight can honestly be very teeth grinding at times. There are certain areas that simply just difficult to master simply because it requires both patience and an understanding of the level’s physics, difficult but not impossible. Remember how I mentioned being taught level mechanics early? Well now you know why. There’s a phrase you may have heard when it comes to newer games that are somewhat difficult, “Nintendo Hard”. And that is was Shovel Knight is. It can be extremely frustrating at times, but once you figure out what to do and get past a certain area or boss, it feels amazing and rewarding. And keep in mind, the reason several older Nintendo games were so much harder was because back in those days programmers were just figuring out to make games like that work. Some got it right, such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Battletoads, while others missed the mark, like Silver Surfer and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.
If I have to nit-pick any issues I may have with this game it’s that I do wish that this game world was a little bigger. It was really cool and I would have loved to have seen more of it. Though, Yacht Club Games may be presenting a solution to this. Like I said earlier, this was a great example of a Kickstarter done right and since Shovel Knight more than met its stretch goal, Yacht Club Games has not only been made available on multiple platforms, but they are releasing all of their DLC for FREE. That’s right, in an age of Season Passes and paying ten bucks for an extra map; Shovel Knight has been delivering new campaigns for free. The first out was based on Plague Knight, and you’ll notice that I have been talking about this DLC in the present tense. That’s because after two years, they are still putting out DLC and it is still 100% free. That is simply insane, awesome, but insane. There are two more campaigns that will be available very soon, and they will definitely be worth checking out.
All in all, this is an excellent game to get and worth playing no matter what you system you prefer. Not to mention, certain consoles versions do have exclusives. For example, on Xbox One you fight the Battletoads (Full Circle) or on PS4 you can fight Kratos, pre-bearded Norse mythology of course. But the reason I bring it up in a Gaming on a Budget feature, is simply because for as great as a game it is, it is still very affordable. In fact, as I am writing this article, Shovel Knight is on sale for Steam for 10 bucks, well worth it. On average though, the digital version is always the cheapest version, running about 15 bucks, which is again well worth the price. I cannot recommend this title enough. Yes, you will get frustrated, and yes you might say some words at times that would make a sailor blush, but the fun, creativity, and music alone, far outweigh the frustration. And as I touched on earlier, in spite of huge messes like Mighty No. 9, this is and will always be a shining example of a crowdfunded effort going extremely right, and that will always be something very worth of its praise and popularity.