Shovel Knight Review Roundup

The retro-style platformer has been getting a lot of buzz, but exactly why is that?

Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight debuts today as a downloadable title on PC, Wii U, and 3DS, and already it's generating a lot of buzz. The 2D side-scroller harkens back to the platformers of old, channeling games like Mega Man and DuckTales to create an experience some are proclaiming one of the best games of the year. Impressively, it's one of the best-selling games on Steam currently despite not being part of the ongoing Summer Sale.

It's notable, then, that this game was made with the help of Kickstarter. A campaign was launched last year and, as often seems to happen with the games that succeed at crowdfunding, it far exceeded its goal: Despite asking for $75,000, Yacht Club ended up with more than $300,000. That amount caused several stretch goals to be met, resulting in the inclusion of a New Game Plus mode and Linux and Mac support, with things like a four-player battle mode and gender swap story to be added later.

Priced at $15, the game is already available on Steam and will launch on Wii U and 3DS once the system's weekly eShop update arrives today. (Much to my disappointment, but not surprise, the Wii U and 3DS versions don't support cross-buy, so you'll have to buy it twice if you want it on both platforms.)

Over on GameSpot sister site Metacritic, the Wii U version has an average review score of 88. To provide you with a better sense of what to expect, we've rounded up a sampling of reviews from around the web.

USgamer -- 5/5

"I don't know about everyone else, but I'm legitimately blown away by the thought and care that went into Shovel Knight's creation, which makes it one of the most enjoyable platformers I've played in years. I went in expecting good things because I have a lot of respect for the talent at Yacht Club Games, most of whom got their start at WayForward; but I honestly wasn't expecting a game that feels so modern while also being a loving tribute to the medium's past (not to mention hilarious). What a wonderful and unexpected surprise." [Full review]

GameSpot -- 7/10

"No matter which era it had been released in, Shovel Knight would have been embraced. Its inherent charms are timeless. Shovel Knight is a good reminder that game design does age but can never die and that simple mechanics can still be immensely satisfying. But this is not another classic. History echoes forth in everything that Shovel Knight does, but while its inspirations offer compelling moments decades after they were first released, this adventure loses its impact all too quickly. Much of what draws me to games of this ilk are repeatedly playing through them, differing my tactics to become more efficient at whatever challenges lie before me. Without that aspect present in Shovel Knight, I was left with an 'is that all?' feeling when the well ran dry. Shovel Knight is a memorable re-imagining of what I grew up with, but doesn't have the longevity or inventiveness to be great in its own right." [Full review]

Polygon -- 9/10

"There is a reason we can all remember so much from games that are almost 30-years-old, and Shovel Knight has tapped into that reason in a profound way. We don't love the brands of our youth, we love the characters, the settings, the way actually playing those games made us feel. Shovel Knight doesn't settle for acknowledging those aspects; it includes them around every single corner. Shovel Knight is so much more than a love letter to the genre--it is, in fact, the kind of game people write love letters about." [Full review]

Joystiq -- 4.5/5

"I'll admit that my glasses are exceptionally rosy when it comes to the games that Shovel Knight is trying to emulate, but the point is that Shovel Knight goes beyond simply embodying the traits of its inspiration. It builds upon them, introducing us to an eccentric world that was clearly crafted with care. The rock-solid core mechanics are supplemented with vibrant art, intricate animation and odd, adorable little characters. Shovel Knight isn't just inspired by 8-bit classics, it is inspired in and of itself." [Full review]

Eurogamer -- 7/10

"If the continuing appropriation of 2D pixel-art sprites and game styles from yesteryear was nothing more than an exercise in aesthetic nostalgia, then Shovel Knight would be difficult to recommend. But the game offers another demonstration of the enduring power and appeal of this form of play--even if it was forged within a set of technical boundaries that are no longer relevant. The game has a light, fresh appeal, even for those who never played 16-bit platform games the first time around, skewering the old publisher lie that only the latest, loudest, most technologically accomplished video games are worthwhile. There is gold in these old genres, and Shovel Knight is a successful dig." [Full review]

GamesBeat -- 93/100

"Shovel Knight isn't just a nostalgic act. Yes, nostalgia plays a big part in its charm, but it's an expertly crafted action-platformer that's just as enjoyable to play as Mega Man or Castlevania. Old school gamers will love Shovel Knight's retro sensibilities, but they'll also appreciate its modern touches. Sure, classics inspired it, but Shovel Knight could soon be a classic of its own." [Full review]

Game Informer -- 8.75/10

"It looks like a simple, straightforward trip down memory lane, but I was surprised by the subtle, emotional story Yacht Club Games delivered. After some boss fights, Shovel Knight rests and dreams of his lost partner, Shield Knight. In his dreams she falls from the sky as he fights waves of enemies in an attempt to catch her. These recurring segments are capped off with a satisfying and memorable payoff that raises the experience
to a new level. Indie throwbacks to video games of the early '80s are a dime a dozen, but Yacht Club Games successfully rises to the top. The tried-and-true game design principles and elegant checkpoint system make Shovel Knight worth a try no matter which era of gaming you prefer." [Full review]

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

20 comments
Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

The thing I've always felt with these old games is, you have to be old to enjoy them. It will be fine if you grew up in the NES era. Playing games just like this. Like he said he felt like he was playing Duck Tales at one point and so the mechanics felt familiar. 

What if you were born after Duck Tales? Chances are the mechanics won't be satisfying but make you want to claw your eyes out instead because of how out of date they are.

I can't even stomach Diablo have not playing it when it was released because of how bad the visuals are for the map and stuff and I'm someone who doesn't give a crap about visuals normally.

If games have moved on from one way of doing things it will be for a reason. New game mechanics don't stick if they are worse than what came before it. Basically evolution. Maps you can actually read and complexity in games outside of pogoing on a boss in 2 dimensions till it dies for example are all progress.

Just because something is old doesn't make it timeless. The future has always been more interesting to me than the past.

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

As soon as I'm done with shadow warrior, I'm all over this.

KoldStrejke
KoldStrejke

WoW, same can be said about DS2 and DS1. NG+, NG++, NG+++ adds nothing to the game. it is just a repeat. after first time. you know how to fight the bosses. and only your impatience will get you killed. why do developers do this. lol, but I will get it on SALE for much less. and enjoy it the game on the first time round. this was a good review. and thanks for stating the fact about the repetitive play through. heaven knows I, being a gamer since 1978. don't need quantity. I need quality.

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

Hopefully with a solid first effort to build upon, they can craft a sequel that fills in the gaps mentioned in the review. Really looking forward to playing it myself.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Lots of people were saying that GameSpot gave the lowest score, when we can see this evidently isn't true.

I liked the game, I appreciated the challenge and sharp gameplay, and creativity, but it was undoubtedly a little... empty.  Like Tom said, the game is almost unbearable the second time through in a way that anything from Super Mario to Super Meat Boy isn't, and it's very difficult to say why.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

Another fun game lands on Wii U? I'm looking forward to grabbing this!

Swaghard
Swaghard

Big corporations shun "classic" gameplay, but imagine gameplay like this matched with a AAA game development budget? It would sell tons because a great playing game is a great playing game. Plus creating big-budget side-scrollers would be far less expensive than producing modern games, yet garner huge rewards in profit and hardcore gamer cred.

nurnberg
nurnberg

Games like this are why I don't take reviews seriously.  This is very low-budget crap yet it receives 9/10 scores.

Xmus942
Xmus942

IGN - 9/10


Destructoid - 9.5/10


How could you forget IGN. 

FCT-Steve-O
FCT-Steve-O

I backed it on kickstarter and love it. Haven't had much time to play it but I have beaten a few levels and its worth every penny.

freedom01
freedom01 moderator moderator

those are some good scores

n1i2z3a4n5
n1i2z3a4n5

awesome game, just bought it on steam

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

@Dannystaples14 I played Duck Tales when I was a kid. I remember f*ckall about it, I certainly don't remember the control scheme. Nostalgia is a bonus, not the main reason to get this or any similar games.

Graphics are a moot point in a game like this, just like it is in borderlands, world of warcraft, etc. A game does not have to be realistic to be good looking.

From the reviews that I read - while this game might resemble one of the games from the olden days, underneath it's no worse then modern games. Some quotes from the kotaku review:


"People will inevitably describe Shovel Knight using phrases like "old-school platforming bliss" and "a love letter to retro games," and that's true and all, but really, this is an experience that captures what people remember about those old games, without all of the clunky jitteriness that actually plagued them. You won't have to worry about slowdown or random graphical glitches here. The jumps and swings have the heft of a modern game."

"I imagine players who didn't grow up with the NES will enjoy Shovel Knight too, because this is platforming as it should be. Every stage is challenging and smart. No space is wasted. No battle is boring. Even the towns have little secrets and delightful surprises that I certainly won't spoil here."

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@KoldStrejke Except for DS2 which just throws those red invaders in there as well to make it feel extra cheap.

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

@naryanrobinson Apart from "Eurogamer" with which they tied, everyone else gave a higher score. Evidently, it is true.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@Swaghard I think when you match gameplay like this with modern graphics, the gameplay automatically feels sub-par.  I think the graphics are a conscious decision here, it's a free pass to oldness, bad or good.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@nurnberg You haven't played it have you?  No.

In your mind, "low-budget crap" is a tautology.  Low budget *equals* crap, and that's why people don't take *you* seriously.  The opposite of a real gamer, and the problem with gaming at large today.

hystavito
hystavito

@nurnberg Well the thing that you often hear from Gamespot is, what the game was trying to accomplish and how well it did that.  My gripe is that GS often doesn't apply to that equally to all games, especially to AAA games.  That's just Gamespot I'm talking about, who gave this a 7, not sure about the other sites but they probably have a similar notion for reviewing.


I will say that I have felt many times indies games get a pass so to speak, perhaps sometimes a little unfairly.

charliezard
charliezard

@Xmus942 I feel like they ignore IGN a lot. Maybe because IGN is major competition? I dunno.