Shovel Knight digs up a whole pile of feelings as you play through it.
You'll laugh at its wit and charm. You'll scream in anger after making a mistake. But perhaps most importantly of all, you'll find yourself overcome by a warm, nostalgic buzz.
I'm honestly surprised I didn't have to blow into a cartridge in order to get the game to work.
All too familiar...
Shovel Knight feels like something from a more innocent time. Back before the age of online gaming and big brown shooters.
It's a game dripping in 8-bit charm, from its pixelated graphics to its kick-ass chiptune soundtrack.
There are eight tough bosses standing between you and your ultimate goal. And that's followed by a showdown with an even tougher final boss.
You collect items called relics to increase your abilities. Some of these are themed after the eight bosses you fight.
The World Map is ripped straight out of Super Mario Bros. 3, with little dots connecting the stages together.
And just like SMB3, sometimes random enemies appear on the world map. If you run into them, it's an instant boss fight.
You could almost think of Shovel Knight as Mega Man mixed with Mario.
...yet entirely original
Sure the game borrows from the Blue Bomber at times, but Shovel Knight adds plenty of interesting features that separate it from its inspiration.
First, there's a full-on upgrade system that allows you to power up the little Shovel Knight as you go. There are even different types of armor that cater to different play styles.
There's a surprisingly deep economic system too. Riches found in the game's many stages can be used to purchase upgrades and any missed relics.
Then there's the star of the show, the shovel. It's part sword, part pogo stick, and all kinds of badass. Getting the upgrade that lets you fire a shockwave along the ground when you're at full health is a must, trust me.
And on top of all of that you'll find a wonderful little story about a knight rising up against the bad guys who've stolen his beloved.
There's a warmth to the tale that makes it pretty difficult not to root for the titular protagonist.
The future in the past
All of these things come from a more advanced time, but they fit perfectly into an 8-bit game about a knight with a shovel.
Of course, alongside that old-school feel there's some old-school difficulty. Parts of the game will make you want to take a bite out of your 3DS in rage.
The levels are designed to test platforming experts. So expect some cheap surprises that appear just as you make a jump or break a block with your shovel.
The relics aren't exactly helpful at times either, with some having a much steeper learning curve than others.
The Propeller Dagger in particular takes some practise. Expect to fall into a lot of pits when trying to time landings.
Despite the high potential for frustration, there's more than enough good in Shovel Knight to keep you pressing on to the end credits.
Anything big games can do...
More well-known games with bigger budgets may boast a lot more flash and pomp, but most can't hold a trowel to the nostalgic charm of Shovel Knight.
This is a game that stuffs a lot of great mechanics into its downloadable package. And, despite a few niggles, offers an action-packed adventure.
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