Well, since I can't create a user review for Shovel Knight, I thought I'd just through it the good ol' blog!
There are things in this universe that light a fire in my underpants: Video games, movies, chicks, bicycles and tiny logs engulfed in flames. Why these things spark my interest is probably due to a few tangible tangerines (and reasons). Experience is the big one. Experience has no doubt shaped my life interests. I've played Video Games since the early 90's. The developers of Shovel Knight have too, and probably earlier, and they want to use this nostalgia to create a roaring bonfire in my underwear drawer.
Which they have. All of my underwear are now on fire and my bedroom reeks of burnt cotton. Turn on Shovel Knight and your are transported to a time where 8 bit graphics were king, video game soundtracks were catchier than "Hit my donkey butt one more time" and listening to Nirvana got you all the chicks. Shovel Knight is an incredible game at dishing out homage to the classics. Classics like Mega Man 2, Castlevania, Zelda 2 and Super Mario Brothers 3. It pulls elements from these titles and integrates them into the 21st century. It's Shovel Knights greatest highlight AND greatest downfall.
Shovel Knight is a game which borrows too much from good sources. My initial exuberance at the sight of seeing and playing a game which reminded so much of the most brilliant games on the NES would eventually wane at about the half way point. I kept waiting for that point in which Shovel Knight would eventually grow into its own beast, and sure there are traces of this (and the finished product is technically a new IP), but Shovel Knight never can escape its own inspiration. Maybe the developers at Yacht Games never wanted this to be the case, or maybe they did. I'll never know this. And it's the only thing I'll never know because I know everything about everything else, and you can quote me on that.
The issues with Shovel Knight aren't huge issues. In fact, it's a debate whether these issues are even issues.
The relics are a thing of debate. Any suggestions geared towards improving or changing the way relics are used all seem to be drawn from how other NES games handled their "relics" or special items. For instance the relic system should have been more like Mega Man, where each relic had its own limited supply; or some kind of system where if you used certain relics in a level, your progress would be branded as using those relics--a system which would encourage the player to only use normal armor and shovel to complete each level. I've even heard the rumor that Yacht Games were considering not even including Relics to begin with.
How Shovel Knight handles difficulty is a thing for debate too. Checkpoints are far too often for some and maybe not enough for others. Your first play through you'll probably never die because you lost all your life (with exception of stepping on an instant kill thing, like spikes). With 2 life refills and a large life bar, Shovel Knight could take 20 uppercuts from Mike Tyson before even starting to feel a trace of an itch. Bosses moves are easy to dodge and the ways to kill them are easily exploitable.
I almost feel like Shovel Knight is simply designed for the purpose of respecting the great games of the past rather than taking what they did so well and building on it. If you stripped Shovel Knight down to its core( the Knight and his shovel, that glorious "8-bit-esque" artstyle, wonderful controls and fighting mechanics, excellent soundtrack) we have a bunch of solid aspects that are partly borrowed from great games of the NES era and have partly been built fresh from the ground up. However the game itself feels almost completely borrowed, like that can opener I took from my buddy last week and never returned.
I really like Shovel Knight and I love talking about all its references. I just wish I could talk about more unique, soley Shovel Knight stuff that somehow doesn't directly refer to an old NES game. Ya dig? (I had to get one pun in there).