See if you dig forthcoming 'NES+' platformer Shovel Knight for 3DS

A different kind of shovelware

See if you dig forthcoming 'NES+' platformer Shovel Knight for 3DS
| Shovel Knight

Every day, the Pocket Gamer news team has to take a virtual shovel to the heaps of Kickstarter-funded games piling up around our inbox.

In among all the unpromising tat, we'll occasionally come across a gleaming nugget of genuine promise. Something like Shovel Knight for Nintendo 3DS, say.

While this is developer Yacht Club's first game, the team has some pedigree. It's made of up of ex-employees of WayForward, a well-established developer of such portable delights as Shantae: Risky's Revenge on DS and iOS and Batman: The Brave and the Bold on DS.

Given the developer's heritage, it's perhaps unsurprising to discover that Yacht Club lays the retro influences on thick in the side-scrolling platformer Shovel Knight. The developer itself drops in Mega Man and Castlevania as two reference points.

Digging for inspiration

Despite these traditional platformer inspirations, though, the gameplay mechanic at the hub of Shovel Knight is a pretty novel one.

"When thinking of the initial concept," the Shovel Knight dev team states on its Kickstarter page, "we started by saying 'what if we built a whole game around a downward sword thrust? It would be great to sink into dirt, attack foes by stabbing from above, and maybe even bounce on hard ground! Ok, digging as a major mechanic… how about it's a shovel instead of a sword? That way, we can have him use the flat blade of the spade to flip things over and slash!'"

Sure enough, while the existing prototype video does show our hero indulging in some traditional leaping, there are a couple of fresh-feeling twists.

Rather than hop delicately over spiky floors, for instance, you can pogo across them using your shovel. We also love the way you can bat enemy projectiles back at them with your colossal digger.


The whole game is being rendered in a style that the developer refers to as "NES+". Yacht Club uses the basic colour palette and pixellated nature of software for Nintendo's great '80s console in Shovel Knight, but packs the game full of scrolling background layers to give the illusion of depth.

All of the characters - right down to the most minor of grunts - will benefit from "painstakingly crafted animations and personalities", too.

Yacht Club has lavished similar attention on the sound design, with specialist composer Jake Kaufmann coming on board early in the process to develop the soundtrack alongside the gameplay. You can get a nifty sample of the soundtrack over on the aforementioned Kickstarter page.

Dig deep

As you can probably tell at this point, a lot of work has been done on Shovel Knight already. In fact, pre-production is pretty much completed.

All Yacht Club needs to do now is make the game. To do that, the studio requires $75,000. With 25 days to go at the time of writing, the team is already halfway there, so we're hopeful that this one will make it.

The lead target platform for Shovel Knight is PC, but the developer has just announced that the game will be ported to 3DS (and Wii U) if it meets its funding target. Pledge $15 or more, and you'll be entitled to a copy of the game upon release.

There are also rewards for extra funding, like an instruction booklet (remember those?), a glossy coffee tablet book, an official soundtrack CD (remember those?), and even a signed envelope filled with Shovel Knight dirt. No, really.

The Shovel Knight Kickstarter campaign ends on April 13th, so if you own a Nintendo 3DS, get pledging.

Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.