Shovel Knight in the test - König 8-Bit

Author: Benjamin Wojkuvka
Date: 2014-07-04 09:30:00
310,000 Kickstarter dollars for a pixelated platform? Wow. But Shovel Knight has to offer more than just a trip back in time. Our test shows that Shovel Knight even eclipses many 8-bit classics.

The 8-bit look was supposed to be a relic of the gaming past. However, a look at the indie scene shows a different picture. The retro look is extremely popular. Titles like 1001 Spikes , Broforce and Nuclear Throne manage to breathe new life into the stale graphic style and revive the genres of sidescroller, shoot'em'ups and jump & runs in an improved way. And now we're crowning the king of this late 8-bit era: Shovel Knight . Sit down by the warming campfire and listen to our fairy tale with a shovel.

Shovel Knight is an "ode to everything 8-bit," says at least developer Yacht Club Games. In fact, we quickly recognize the traces of many classics: the Oberweltkarte is from Super Mario Bros. 3 , the levels themselves are more reminiscent of the Mega-Man series and the combat system appears as a tribute to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link . The pogostick from DuckTales is also included. But instead of just copying, the developers go a step further and give the platformer a pinch of modern game design and a lot of its own charm.

The tale of the knight with the shovel

In essence, Shovel Knight is a 2D sidescroller. We slip into the role of a knight with a shovel, who once fought for justice with his Queen of Hearts Shield Knight, but retired early after an accident. But a nasty sorceress and her league of extraordinarily sneaky knights plunge the world into chaos and we can shovel everything back into balance. And that's how our epic adventure begins. For shovel knight justice!

The funny story is simple and is quickly explained in just a few moves. However, especially towards the end, it develops a certain depth. In the course of the action, we repeatedly come across illustrious figures that give the game world character. Especially the weird villains make us smile again and again shortly before the boss fights.

The NES era as a role model

After a short intro level and a discussion with our eternal rival Black Knight, we head out into the big, wide world. That means: the world map. From now on, we always have several levels to choose from, at the end of which an Obermotz is always waiting for the shovel knight. They always oppose us with a certain repertoire of attacks that we have to look through first - completely à la Mega Man.

We already noticed the great level design in the first level. Every screen shows us something new. In the first few steps, we shovel gemstones out of the dirt, meet a dragon spitting bubbles and find hidden passages behind destructible walls.

The following levels are designed under the same star. There is almost no environment that is boring or that doesn't present us with something new. From the underwater world of the Treasure Knights to the decadent castle of the King Knights to the airship of the Propeller Knights - each stage serves us new opponents, difficult jump passages and in the end always a wonderfully weird villain.

In the surroundings we find tons of treasures. We spend our loot in the city, where we take breaks between our exploits. We invest in items that increase our vitality or magic energy or buy special armor.

Because the traders charge real usury prices, it pays to search every inch of the level for hidden gems. There are many secret passages off the path. However, we have to show a lot of skill in such sections. We only reach many treasures after a tricky jump section, but we are rewarded with chests full of valuables or collectibles.

There is magic in the form of relics. The spells vary in their usefulness: some simply create a small but effective fireball, while others actually open new ways. For example, the knight can fight his magic mites in the air through lumps of dirt. There are bonus levels for exactly such spells, which are designed purely for their skillful use.

Even if various elements of well-known games seem to be randomly thrown together, Yacht Club Games polished them to the finest detail and put them together with a lot of skill. This creates a gameplay mosaic that is always reminiscent of the classics, but plays much more intuitively and simply better.

The control underlines the feeling of smoothness. The shovel knight does exactly what we tell him to do at the push of a button. This makes the increasingly tricky Jump & Run insoles a lot of fun.

Goodbye frustration factor

But the developers don't just copper. Quite the contrary: They do without the frustration factor of the life-consuming 8-bit era, instead rely on a fair checkpoint system that is reminiscent of dark souls . Because just like in the challenging action role-playing game, we get the chance to collect our lost good after death.

If the shovel bites the grass, it loses a few bags of gold. They hover exactly over the place of our death and are just waiting to be collected again. However, should we die again, all of the gold will be lost forever.

Daredevils in particular can destroy checkpoints to their heart's content and are even rewarded with a little pocket money. If the shovel knight encounters the grim reaper afterwards, it goes back to the last intact checkpoint or, at worst, to the beginning of the level.

Not only the screen death reminds of Dark Souls but also the characters - as strange as that sounds. Because in Dark Souls, all characters get a lot of character through their helmets and armor, and that's largely the same in Shovel Knight. The bad guys in particular have an extremely distinctive look.

Everywhere you can see that Yacht Club designed their game world, the residents and monsters with great attention to detail. Our dearest detail: When Shovel Knight triumphs over the Propeller Knight, a small stream of tears streams from the villain's eyes. Dearest!

But something is missing

The Kickstarter campaign for the shovel knight was extremely successful. Instead of the targeted $ 75,000, it raised $ 311,502. And Yacht Club Games vowed to use them well. However, not all promised features made it into the current version.

Much to our surprise, we couldn't pick a female Shovel Knight at the start of our adventure, although it was promised as a bonus from a Kickstarter amount of $ 160,000. But don't despair: the developers are in the process of completing all of the missing content. The female Shovel Knight will be delivered as a free DLC, as well as the fight and challenge modes or the playable bosses. Incidentally, the community determined which three Obermotze can be selected as game characters. She voted for King Knight, Specter Knight and Plague Knight!

Despite the lack of content, the adventure of the shovel knight is a well-rounded affair. Even more: The love of detail of the worlds, the difficulty balance, the intuitive controls and of course the memorable villains make Shovel Knight a modern classic that can easily compete with its famous role models and even surpass them in many ways.