Shovel Knight is one of the best games of 2014, and it’s finally coming to Xbox One, bigger and better than ever before. The Kickstarter-funded indie project from Yacht Club Games is the ultimate homage to the 8-bit era of platformers. Evoking the nostalgia of an 8-bit game without being overly referential or silly, Shovel Knight doesn’t just feel like a game inspired by the late ‘80s – it feels like a game that could have actually existed in that decade.
As the titular knight, armed with (what else) a shovel, you have to jump, fight, and bounce your way through increasingly deadly and challenging levels. It’s an amalgamation of the best that the NES had to offer – the coolest elements of the best games, all combined. Spikes and bottomless pits; enemies chained together to bounce off of in an aerobatic display of twitch reflexes and perfect timing. And, of course boss battles – so many boss battles.
Shovel Knight is a notoriously challenging game, and you will die over and over and over again. The wickedly clever thing about Shovel Knight is that you have the option to destroy mid-level checkpoints for a hefty gold bonus. But when you die, you lose a bunch of your gold, and you’re forced to get back to the spot of your demise to retrieve it without dying again (and thus losing the gold forever). The risk-reward dynamic is cranked to its max with Shovel Knight.
For gamers that have already enjoyed Shovel Knight on other platforms, the Xbox One release promises some new features. Perhaps most noticeably (or at least most nostalgically), it features an appearance by none other than the poster amphibians for brutal 8-bit gaming, the BattleToads.
If you’re too young to remember BattleToads, go ask an older relative if they ever broke a controller in rage, and then listen to their story about the hover bike level. It will sound like a grandparent talking about the war.
Shovel Knight joins a number of excellent old-school gaming love letters from the [email protected] family. If you want some challenging platforming now, check out Volgarr the Viking to sharpen your skills before Shovel Knight releases later this year!