Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight is an old-school platformer about exactly what it sounds like. The levels are very well-designed and they flow nicely. The game's dynamics combine with a beautiful soundtrack, solid visuals and a great sense of humor to give a its pretend world and play a a substance, and give me the sense that I'm a knight. On an adventure. With a shovel. It was worth it just for the experience of playing, but the experience stretched to surprising levels of beauty.
1. Did I Enjoy This?
Solid mechanics and visuals and audio all around. The game is already satisfying on a visceral level: You feel good about beating it, and it can be beaten. Shovel Knight's world was beautiful in a beauty-in-design sense to be sure, but it was also a world with goodness.
The hero is a real hero. It's possible that the game's failure to take itself seriously allows its hero to be a romantic hero without being unbelievably cheesy. A fairly consistent theme is his attempt to convert his enemies with words and spare them the spade. There is a subtle but persistent theme of eros as Shovel Knight longs for his lost companion and lover. Even the villains (most of them, anyway) aren't pure evil, displaying the variety of qualities one normally sees in real-life enemies. There are minor inroads into benevolent love for others. As someone who never totally disconnects his theological mind, this game left me with little dissonance.
And it bears repeating. That soundtrack, those tunes. [Song from Bandcamp directly removed].
2. Was this Experience Valuable?
As a man with appreciation for level design and the value of humor for narrative, I think I'd say yes. I've definitely seen a great example of how to design a game with a clear hero without being too cheesy. Whether it caused me to grow as a theologian, I'm unsure. But along those lines, I'm glad for a great example of fairy tales telling moral truths. I'd say I got more experience with good storytelling and design ideas, at any rate.
And I usually find some growth value in having to work to complete something. I'll delve more into that point later, but I've heard it said and I think I agree that there's something satisfying about getting better at a game while you're playing it.
3. Would I Recommend This?
Yes. The only caveat is that while this isn't exactly a hard-core platformer the same way that old-school MegaMan games are. If you're not willing to be frustrated a little, this may not be the game for you. If your skill is like mine, you'll be working on this one for at least five hours or so for a first run. However, I found the experience to be quite fair overall in its challenge with only one or two rough spots.
But if you want to inhabit a fairy tale that is rich with humor and heroism but won't hand you everything on a silver platter, or even if you just wanted one of those things and can enjoy the other, this game is a great buy. It's out for a whole bunch of platforms including Windows, Mac and 3DS.
Where Does One Find This?