Before its release, Shovel Knight caught my attention and held on tight. Originally funded through Kickstarter, Yacht Club Games’ debut release attracted the spotlight of gaming media sites and ultimately became one of the highest-praised titles of 2014 among gaming critics.
Yacht Club Games’ debut title Shovel Knight was simply one of the best indie games of 2014 – in retrospect, it might be one of my favorite indie-developed games to date. What made this one so special was how it pulled off its various old-school mechanics, which were clearly inspired by some beloved games. Shovel Knight was clever, and it used all of its borrowed ideas in such a way that it ultimately felt very fresh.
In short, Shovel Knight tells the story of the titular, blue armor-clad hero, who sets out to rescue his fellow knight and beloved friend Shield Knight. Shield Knight has been captured by the evil antagonist, The Enchantress. In order to save Shield Knight and reach The Enchantress, Shovel Knight must first defeat her eight guardians – The Order of No Quarter.
The tale is simple and sweet; Shovel Knight manages to convey a lot of emotion and feeling, especially when you are drawn into the lush background details and vivid 8-bit sprites. It’s shamelessly nostalgic, especially with the MIDI-based “chiptune” soundtrack, which I’d argue contains some of the best MIDI music ever created.
Shovel Knight had some depth hidden beneath the nostalgic visual style, 8-bit sound effects, and surprisingly incredible “chiptune” music. Exploring the levels, purchasing upgrades and finding hidden goodies was addicting and rewarding, especially after finding some of the nifty “Relic” items.
Some of the Relics were offensive weapons, some were support items, some were helpful for platforming. Perhaps my favorite was also the most bizarre – there was a fishing pole that you could use at the edge of platforms to reel in health items or gold treasure.
I could gush about Shovel Knight for ages – if you have not played it yet, you absolutely should. Indeed, Shovel Knight was my favorite indie-developed game of 2014, and it stands as the greatest downloadble game I have ever played on the Nintendo 3DS.