Slash Mercilessly and Dig Tirelessly!
Time for some truth bombs. First, the downthrust ability from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was the best part of that entire, difficult-to-love entry in the series. Second, any game that is created based around that same downthrust mechanic is automatically worth eyeball time. And third, Shovel Knight is just such a game, on track to shock those eyeballs into a state of pure retro pleasure once it becomes a reality.
Although developer Yacht Club Games have specifically called out the “downward sword thrust” as their inspiration for Shovel Knight‘s gameplay, the complete package looks like a glorious combination of Zelda, Mega Man, and DuckTales, wrapped in a retro-styled but completely original world. The heroic Shovel Knight must set out to defeat the evil Enchantress and her team of villainous bosses, dubbed The Order of No Quarter, who each reside in an enemy-guarded, personally-themed stage—such as the Polar Knight and his frozen tundra.
Accomplishing this task, and saving his beloved, will require some mad shoveling skills. Like Scrooge McDuck with his unbelievably versatile cane, Shovel Knight’s “ShovelBlade” is used as a weapon, shield, pogo stick, and—surprise!—shovel. In the reveal trailer alone, we see Shovel Knight utilize his shovel to tunnel through dirt, dig up jewels, catapult a boulder, downthrust-bounce across enemies’ heads, jab, deflect magic, and break the lock on a treasure chest which appears to contain an even more powerful, magical shovel.
This focus on gameplay extends through every facet of Shovel Knight. Yacht Club Games have directed much of their efforts already to “the ‘feel’ of great control” and “pixel-perfect hit boxes, toenail jumps, and mobility mastery.” With a team whose past creations range from Contra 4 and BloodRayne: Betrayal to A Boy and His Blob and Double Dragon Neon, this new collaboration should have no problem delivering on their lofty goals. Of course, these goals extend beyond a game that merely plays well: referencing the GBA masterpiece Mother 3 as a source of inspiration, the team behind Shovel Knight expressed their intent to create a game in which “graphics, story, and tone work together to unify the gameplay experience!”
Although we won’t know if they’ve fully accomplished this until Shovel Knight is released, if the packed demo at PAX East is any indication, Yacht Club Games is well on their way. To help ensure this “next-gen 8 bit game” is enjoyable in the near future, head over to the Shovel Knight Kickstarter page, which has some of the greatest pledge rewards yet, including a signed packet of dirt, a pajama party with the developers, and an NES instruction booklet (authentic down to the smell). Which is perfect for those of us with still-recovering, pleasure-shocked eyeballs.