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Shovel Knight for Xbox One: I Can Dig It.
These past few years have seen the resurgence of many different retro gaming elements, but none bigger than the platformer. Left to right and up and down have returned, the success varying from game to game. Games like Donkey Kong Country Returns have been carrying the torch of existing franchises, while games like the upcoming Yooka-Laylee breath new life as the spiritual successor of the Banjo Kazooie games.
Yet, there are still new participants. Yacht Club Games held a rather successful Kickstarter sometime ago, resulting in a game named Shovel Knight. Originally on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, Shovel Knight has since made its way to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox One. As it turns out, the Xbox One version of the game is pretty great.
The game is more or less the same as it was in previous iterations. Before the events of the game, Shovel Knight traveled the land alongside his companion, Shield Knight. After the defeat and disappearance of Shield Knight, Shovel Knight retires from the heroic life until the appearance of the evil Enchantress and her forces. Known as the Order of No Quarter, this group of formerly good-natured knights will conquer the land and it’s people unless Shovel Knight can stop them.
To say Shovel Knight is only equipped with a shovel won’t do the character justice. Besides the bevy of weapon, armor, and health upgrades, the hero will also find several artifacts. Many are not entirely necessary to complete the story, but still serve as useful additions to Shovel Knight’s arsenal. Many relics can be found in the local village, but the more useful gear can be found by traversing the off-beaten paths across the land.
Shovel Knight is every bit an 8-bit game is it claims to be. From the sprite design down to the soundtrack, the design and aesthetic is meant to emulate games that originally held more restricted technical specs. This largely makes the controls minimalist, much to the game’s benefit. Many puzzles will require confidence on the first attempt, as any kind of second judgment will result in death. In addition to the 8-bit graphics and optional D-Pad controls, Shovel Knight’s soundtrack comes from Jake Kaufman Manami Matsumae, the latter of which you may remember as the composer of the original Mega Man. The midi soundtrack also bolsters the retro-cred of the game, bringing a soundtrack that varies melodically, also a bi-product from the limitations du jour.
The story over the course of the game maintains a mostly cheery and upbeat demeanor, despite the circumstances. Confronting the enchantress may be all the resolve Shovel Knight needs, but acing the tricky terrain will feel just as rewarding to the player. Players who’ve grown accustomed to the amenities of the modern gaming scene will certainly find a challenge in Shovel Knight. Expect to die. A lot. The difficulty in fact from the tight controls, combined with the level layout. It won’t be enough in many cases to improvise; many of your movements will need to be calculated to avoid projectiles, spike traps, and bottomless pits.
The nice addition to the Xbox One version of Shovel Knight is the introduction of the Battletoads. While being an optional mission, the challenge still creates a nice addition to the console port, while still providing some cool perks for completing the level.
Shovel Knight serves to be a great adaptation of the successfully-funded game. From a control perspective, Shovel Knight fails to have awkward moments and is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. Fans of the 8-bit era will have something to look forward to, while newcomers may find themselves reluctant to admit defeat over the course of the 8-hour adventure.