Shovel Knight digs into gaming history, IndieCade hands-on preview

shovel knight title screen

Having lived through (and thoroughly enjoyed) the 8-bit era, I can spot the probable influences that Shovel Knight has contained within it. Indie team Yacht Club Games is forging a seemingly worthy effort; a game that seems to contain influences from past greats such as Zelda 2, Duck Tales, and Mega Man (see pic below).

shovel knight mega man influence

Shovel Knight has relatively simple controls. You can swing your shovel to hit enemies, and bouncing off of their heads with your shovel will pop Shovel Knight high into the air. Some enemies will shoot projectiles at you, and with a well-timed swing of your shovel, you just might make them regret that they did. Mess up the timing and the projectile will probably fly off in a potentially useless direction. This is about the extent of variety in moves that I saw in the demo, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it? The Super Mario series has mostly lived off of running and jumping, for example; and that series has lived on for nearly three decades.

shovel knight magic books 2

Shovel Knight seems to have taken the same route of making the controls simple and creating variety through the levels themselves. One challenging section had a series of magic books that Shovel Knight had to pogo across in a limited amount of time, all the while avoiding streams of lava and rats that hover around via mini helicopter backpacks. Earlier in the demo, I faced off against a shovel-less knight that reminded me of fights that occur in Zelda 2. The knight protected himself with a shield, attempting to stop my attacks from the front and the top. I eventually downed him by alternating my attacks, getting a poke in here and there.

shovel knight boss

At the end of the demo I encountered an impressively animated boss. Sitting at the throne, he appeared to be the king of the castle. His robe ripples fluidly, and he bounds around the room, looking to strike. He sometimes makes a quick dash from one side of the room to the other. Other times he may try to smack you with his scepter. Amusingly, the king will call upon his royal trumpets to blast confetti into the room. It slowly floats back and forth, causing damage if it makes contact with Shovel Knight. I eventually bested the king and completed one level of the game, though if it weren’t for the forgiving amount of health that I had, I surely would have failed, having been hit several times.

Shovel Knight is most certainly a throwback to some of the better games of yore. Fans of Mega Man, Duck Tales, and Zelda 2 ought to keep this one on their radar, as it’s shaping up to be something special.

Shovel Knight will release on 3DS, Wii U and PC sometime in winter 2013.

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Ryan Southard
Ryan Southard 776 posts

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it's new or it's old, as long as it's awesome, he'll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard <a href="http://nerdreactor.com/about/">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>