In just a few short days Shovel Knight has gone from a blip on my radar to one of my most anticipated titles of the year. Designed by a small but talented team of former WayForward developers, this is an upcoming indie title with considerable pedigree.
Sean Velasco and the folks at Yacht Club Games have spent the better part of the last decade putting new and creative spins on old properties like BloodRayne and Double Dragon, but have now set out to blaze exciting trails of their own.
That journey begins with Shovel Knight, an action platformer inspired by the downward sword thrust from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Born of and built around this singular mechanic, the sword was quickly converted into a shovel, opening new and interesting doors for the designers to explore.
The shovel has far-reaching impacts on nearly every facet of the game. In addition to serving as a weapon, the shovel doubles as a tool and mode of transportation. Whether the player is digging up buried treasure, slicing through enemies, or just using it as a pogo stick to get around, it's all about the shovel. Garden tools have never been so cool.
Fusing retro sensibilities with modern design, Shovel Knight looks and feels like a classic Mega Man game with its themed worlds and charismatic bosses but is injected with elements of Castlevania and Dark Souls as well. The game is constantly communicating with the player, subtly conveying enemy patterns or hinting at a trap just as the knight is about to fall into the snare. It's exemplary of the incredible attention to detail that seems to permeate the entire experience.
There are dozens of little things that the game does to go the extra mile. From toenail jumps to adhering to the NES palette, Shovel Knight feels like an authentic retro game that's been lost in a time warp for two decades.
It's still only in the initial stages of development, but from what little I've seen of Shovel Knight thus far, I'm completely sold. From the moment that I laid eyes on those vibrant visuals it was clear that I was witnessing something special. And from the sounds of things it's only going to get better from here.
Shovel Knight is releasing later this year on PC, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS. In the meantime, players interested in pre-ordering a copy and helping Yacht Club fund the game can head over to the project's Kickstarter page.