Seemingly 2D platformer Shovel Knight is secretly run with a 3D engine

How to make Shovel Knight rock even more: step one

The YouTube channel Boundary Break is doing fantastic work for not only the consumer side of gaming, but the development sphere as well. The gist is that it basically tries to break games to find greater truths, like the fact that Shovel Knight actually runs on a 3D engine.

This isn’t information that was necessarily hacked, but willingly doled out by Yacht Club Games, who spoke to the channel directly. Programmer David D’Angelo (whose name is burned in my memory from the credit screen for some reason) stepped in to explain that “it’s easier to set up [the project] that way.” D’Angelo notes that you can rely on every console to support a 3D engine, and that it’s much harder to debug issues on a 2D plane, given that you can’t rotate the camera around in debug mode to locate problematic bugs.

Beyond those fundamentals, Boundary Break also warps the camera around to show how detailed each level is, showcasing out of sight magic that makes each visual accent pop. Amazingly, the team pulled the original art from the Battletoads NES game as a comparison for the Xbox-exclusive boss gauntlet, which was “accidentally” kept in (unseen without debug tools) as a relic of that research.

As the channel points out, the 3DS version of Shovel Knight already had this feature baked-in, so a lot of folks weren’t surprised that this was a latent hidden foundation in every other edition.

Chris Carter
Reviews Director, Co-EIC - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff!