Shovel Knight Review: Deceptively Cute

Available now for $14,99 on Playstation platform. With a 10% discount in the first week if you have Playstation Plus.

I've got to be honest. I've never been much of a fan of indie games. It's probably because I don't play them very often. Outside of Rogue Legacy and FTL, I don't have much experience with them. And even then that's just roguelikes. Or it could be that I'm a console gamer and it was only a recent turn of events that Sony ended up pushing hard for more indies on the platform, opening me up to a whole new world of games that I could usually never play because my laptop can't run them.

So then, what of Shovel Knight? A game that came out last year on PC and mobile platforms and yesterday on Playstation platforms. I got my hands on it and I found that once I started, I couldn't stop. The gameplay, the soundtrack, the art, the dialog. It was all great.

I've been using Spotify in the background of every game I've played as soon as I was able to. But with Shovel Knight, I felt like I had to really take the game in. So I shut it off, and it paid off because the music in this game is great.

The story of Shovel Knight begins with our protagonist Shovel Knight and his beloved, Shield Knight. One night, a cursed amulet traps Shield Knight inside the Tower of Fate, which is then sealed, trapping her inside. Broken up by his loss, Shovel Knight decides to live in a life of solitude. This gives a group of ne'er do wells called the Order Of No Quarter, led by the evil Enchantress, their opportunity to seize the land. In doing so, they open the Tower of Fate once more. With the possibility of rescuing his beloved Shield Knight, Shovel Knight comes out of retirement to smite the evil of the land and reunite with Shield Knight.

The controls are very tight. You use the analog stick or D-pad to move left and right. The X button jumps and the Square button swings your mighty shovel. Up and Square uses your magical abilities though you can change it to Triangle in the options menu.

The game begins simple enough, simply jumping from platform to platform, obtaining currency in the form of jewels in hidden passages, treasure chests, and piles of dirt on the ground that you get to dig up with your handy dandy shovel.

The thing that gets me the most is a scene that you get once you complete level. After killing the a boss, you get a serene scene of Shovel Knight setting up camp and sleeping for the night.

He may be locked out of the tower of fate, but he will never be locked out of the tower of my heart

 It's what happens after that's so emotional. In his sleep, Shovel Knight dreams of Shield Knight falling and he has to catch her. But there are enemies around and he has to fight  them off before she falls to the ground. It's something that really affected me a great deal. To see the inner turmoil of the character as he desperately tries to save her. It is also a really well executed means into the character of Shovel Knight. To know that this funny little 8-bit Shovel wielding guy has such a weight on his shoulders.

It makes the struggle real. The stakes are set.

So with that, Shovel Knight takes it to a series of intricately laid out levels. The level design in this game is actually pretty great. Lots of traps and hazards await your progress through the world map. Levels may start out simple but get more complicated as you go on. One level had me standing on rocket powered platforms to make my way to tricky jump spots. With the tight controls at my side mistakes were usually always my fault.

Speaking of failures, when you die, you drop three sacks of your currency. Acting as sort of a bloodstain from Dark Souls, it usually causes me to frantically rush back towards where I died in hopes of recovering my lost cash. It usually ends in disastrous results, as I die a lot.

The checkpoint system is pretty neat. You begin the level and work you way forwards(Obviously) until you find a crystal ball lamp looking thing. You can use this as a checkpoint, or you can destroy it and obtain a sum of gold. It provides a risk reward system to people who want to live life on the edge. Though, some levels can be tricky so choose wisely.

The difficulty of the game can flow back and forth based on your ability to stay cool under pressure. Some levels have a lot of things going on and if you're a scrub like me who doesn't play platformers often it could be an ordeal. Like in the Lich Yard, where the level will suddenly go pitch black while monsters roam around and you have to jump your way around.

The best part about the challenge is how rewarding the game can be. Being able to pull of a tricky jump onto a platform, fight off an enemy and then find a hidden passage filled with treasure is enough to make the frustrations all disappear.

After a short amount of time in the game you get access to a village, where you can buy health and magic upgrades as well as buy new items for you to use during levels. Some time after that you find another village that allows you to purchase new shovel abilities as well as new armor.

You use these abilities in special stages on the world map marked by a red jewel. They require you to obtain an item from the merchant and then use them The stages are usually filled to the brim with jewels, but also a lot of ways to lose them if you don't watch your step.. One stage has you use an amulet that gives you temporary invincibility to walk along some spikes, and another has you use a special gauntlet that lets you punch your way through blocks that are suspended over dangerous falls. If you punch in succession, you will be able to, in a way, suspend yourself across these wide chasms to get to the other side.

There's even a Hall of Champions, a stage to show off all of the kickstarter backers who pledged $200 in pixel style paintings on the walls. There's also a cool little secret there if you keep your eyes peeled.

Ultimately, I really, really like Shovel Knight. The way cute little Shovel Knight animates, the way he pumps his shovel in the air after a boss battle is so adorable. The levels are fun and interesting, there's a lot of secret areas to find and optional stages to clear. The music is bumping. The story is cute and the dialog is funny. It really gives you a lot to do. And it's all really fun.

But that's not all there is. There's a lot I didn't talk about out of respect for spoilers. There's still some stuff to find and enjoy for yourself.

I give Shovel Knight 5 woohooing Shovel Knights out of 5.


My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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