Shovel Knight Review (Wii U)

Genre: Platform

Platform:  Wii U, 3DS, Win, Mac, Linux

Developer: Yacht Club Games

Publisher: Yacht Club Games

Release Date: Jun 26th 2014

In recent times, retro styled games have become incredibly successful on pretty much all platforms. Most of the times, these games aren’t really that good, as it’s mostly nostalgia that allows them to become successful. Some notable retro styled games have managed to become successful for their actual gameplay experiences, though, since they aren’t stuck in the past but include something new that makes them go beyond being simple rehashes of decades old mechanics.

Shovel Knight definitely belongs to this category. The game developed by Yacht Club Games is one of the best retro styled games ever released, thanks to a gameplay experience that manages to feel fresh thanks to a variety of features that make it feel like a game that could have been indeed released 20 or 30 years ago.

Shovel Knight stars the titular armored warrior who must traverse some dangerous levels and fight powerful enemies using nothing but his shovel. Those who have played the classic DuckTales will surely find some similarities, as the shovel handles pretty much like Scrooge’s pogo stick. Unlike the Capcom title, however, Shovel Knight makes an effort in explaining its mechanics, so that the game doesn’t ever feel obscure or frustrating as older platform games. This is one of the reasons why the game feels so fun and fresh: the team didn’t just cram into the game random mechanics from the past, but actually took the best and tweaked them so that they can work together flawlessly. The shovel mechanics work incredibly well. Finding a way to combo jumps together is incredibly satisfying and never frustrating. It’s possible to complete most stages without missing a jump. There’s no reward for doing so, that’s for sure, but it’s still really satisfying.

As we already mentioned above, Shovel Knight isn’t just a rehash of ages old mechanics, but a game that brings something new to the plate. Just like in the Dark Souls games, death is not the end of everything. Once you get defeated, you will be losing all the gold you have been carrying and you will have the chance to recover it if you manage to reach the same spot without dying again. This gameplay mechanic adds a risk-reward system that adds even more depth to the whole experience, as it gives gamers a choice in how to play the game, keeping them on their toes as well. The checkpoint system also carries a risk-reward system that’s never been seen before in retro-styled games. By playing the game like one of the older platform games, gamers will surely notice how checkpoints distribution can be quite generous. However if you feel it’s really too generous for you, you can smash them and collect a huge amount of gold. Considering how each stage takes around 30 minutes to complete, it’s pretty clear how destroying too many checkpoints may end up taking the player back to the beginning of the stage in case of death.

And you will be dying quite a lot in Shovel Knight. The first stages aren’t too though, with the occasional harder section here and there, but later ones will make you think twice before destroying a check point as they’re full of dangers. Luckily the overall difficulty level can be mitigated by purchasing all the upgrades available in the game’s shop. It’s actually quite easy to get all of them before the end of the game so don’t worry about missing any of them or do some extra grinding, you will be getting more than enough gold during a regular playthrough.

Everything considered, Shovel Knight is without a doubt one of the best retro-styled games released in the past few years. The team has taken all the best features of classic platform games, tweaking them so that they could work together, and added some more modern features that don’t make the game just feel like a nostalgic experience, but a fresh and incredibly engaging platform game. Highly recommended to all platform games fans.


  • Great gameplay experience
  • Checkpoints and death systems add more depth to the experience
  • The basic mechanics are easy to grasp but harder to master
  • Charming setting and characters


  • Later levels can be frustrating

[xrr rating=9/10]

 9 out of 10 

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