#6 this year is a mix of old and new: We have a new developer making a classic game using the new methods of crowd-funding to do so. Shovel Knight may not look all that impressive from the outside but it is definitely a love letter to old school game design and an amazing game to boot.
The simplest way to describe Shovel Knight would be if someone found a long lost NES game and released it today. From graphics, storytelling and gameplay, everything feels straight out of the late 80s. But if you look closer at it, you’ll find modern sensibilities built into the design like checkpoints and in game saves.
While the level designs definitely emulate classic games like Mega Man, Ducktales and more, everything still is original to Shovel Knight. And the fact that the developers were able to emulate without copying is a testament to the level of craftsmanship that Yacht Club Games have.
If you want an example of great level design to examine, Shovel Knight takes it with the variety of enemies and situations, yet each level was unique. When developing old school games, part of the challenge is trying to figure out what elements to bring back and which ones to avoid and Shovel Knight was smartly designed on this front.
Too often game developers make things hard for the sake of hard or use arbitrary design considerations that worked back then. But Yacht Club Games kept things under control and struck a balance of keeping things from getting too hard. And for gamers who do want that added difficulty, there were plenty of additional modes and challenges hidden for them to attempt.
This was one of those games where it was hard to pinpoint any major issues unique to Shovel Knight and not those from the genre or time that it was designed for. As I said on my review, Shovel Knight is somewhat short but each level was again very well done.
In a year of failed kickstarters and early access titles, Shovel Knight was one of the few crowd-funded games released this year to meet expectations and they are still not done working on it. More content should be coming soon with playable boss characters and I do hope that we see a sequel at some point.
Up next we come to #5 that marks the end of a popular series.