[PS4/Vita Double Review] Shovel Knight

by the_nmac

Shovel Knight is a Kickstarted 8-bit retro indie release that started as a Wii U exclusive that has finally jumped over to the PlayStation family. By moving to the PS platforms, it gets a great set of trophies as well as an exclusive cameo by Kratos, the God of War! Are you ready to dive into this pixeltastic quest?

Shovel Knight is a sweeping classic action adventure game with awesome gameplay, memorable characters, and an 8-bit retro esthetic. You play as the eponymous Shovel Knight, a small knight with a huge quest. Shovel Knight has come to this valley with two goals: to defeat the evil Enchantress and save his lost beloved. He wields a Shovel Blade; a multipurpose weapon whose techniques have now been lost to the ages. Always honest and helpful, Shovel Knight is a shining example of the code of Shovelry: Slash Mercilessly and Dig Tirelessly!

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Shovel Knight – Trailer

This is a double review for the PS4 and Vita versions of Shovel Knight. The PS4 version was played by the_nmac, and the Vita version was played by Ceidz. This review presents what they both had to say.

So I started Shovel Knight on the Wii U last year when it was released, but never quite got into it. I’m not sure why, but I let it sit without playing it. That changed now that I have the PS4/Vita versions. I just couldn’t put it down.

The game is developed in an old 8-bit graphical style. This will remind you of some of the older games for the NES, which it borrows proudly and liberally from. Those games include Megaman, DuckTales, Super Mario Bros 3, and more. That being said I love the art style in general. It appears like what the peak of the quality from the tail end of the NES era looked like.


The overworld is very much like Super Mario Bros 3. However, it is the levels that set it apart and make it so unique and so good. Each level is set up like the old Megaman games. There is a different knight for each theme including Treasure Knight, Propeller Knight, Polar Knight(with a Winter Shovel), and even Tinker Knight. Treasure Knight’s level is a submarine, Polar Knight is in the arctic, and so on. As you progress through each level, you will encounter checkpoints to start over if you die as you make your way to the final boss for the level. Once you reach the boss fight, that’s where it gets tough until you figure out their pattern. Then you can kick butt.

One of the cool additions to the PS4 version is the inclusion of Kratos, the God Of War, as a boss. There are hints on how to unlock him in the game, once you do you will see him as a wandering traveler on your map. You will then get into a three-tiered battle with him, eventually winning an item that you can turn into your own custom set of armor that gives your shovel the powers of the blades of chaos. But be warned that while it has a better range, I found it was much slower and switched back to a different armor. But it’s definitely a great exclusive for PlayStation users.


As you go throughout the levels you collect money which you can use in towns to purchase things such as upgraded armor with different abilities, more health or mana, relics, and extra shoveling techniques. This adds some extra depth to the game with some great RPG elements letting you customize what you want your Shovel Knight to be. Once of the things you do need to watch when playing is dying, as each death will cause you to lose some of the money you are collecting. You can go and recover it in the level, but if you die before recollecting it’s gone.

Quick Pro Tip as well: The game is setup with two buttons to control jump and slash. You use your relics by holding Up + Slash. You can remap relics to the triangle button, making it much easier to use them.

There is a “Feat” system in the game, which was introduced for the Wii U, due to the lack of a trophy or achievement system on it. That stayed intact on its trip to PlayStation with most of them becoming actual trophies as well. There are 37 trophies including a platinum one, but some of the trophies include finishing the game without dying… and finishing the game without spending any money! These will be tough even for seasoned experts.

Shovel Knight‘s gameplay is a superb mix of older games like Mega Man, DuckTales, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and has a ton of references to other great games in the NES library, which a younger audience might not get at first. This game plays out mostly like an old Megaman game, so expect the difficulty to be on par with your earliest gaming memories! For instance, I found the first level’s difficulty to be relatively casual and finished it in a single life. But as soon as the second level starts, be ready for an abrupt difficulty spike! You’ll definitely love how the frequent checkpoints in the game can take you back to a few screens earlier without requiring to start the level again!


Controlling Shovel Knight is a breeze as the controls are very sharp. Each time you fall into a pit or get hit by an enemy, you’ll know it was your fault and not the game’s fault. I played on the Vita and liked the precision of the controls as it really felt like I was playing an NES game! I tried playing with the D-Pad, but the controls felt more natural using the analog controls.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the 8-bits soundtrack as it mimics very well what we used to hear back in the day, and some themes are quite catchy! There is also a “music sheets” collecting mini-game that not only gives you money when you hand them over to the bard, but you’ll also be able to hear the unlocked themes directly from him whenever you want! My wife, who totally isn’t used to “this kind of music,” asked me to put on my headphones so she couldn’t hear them anymore. I’d classify this as a testament of fidelity to the NES soundtracks!


Final Thoughts

As you can tell, we really liked Shovel Knight. There’s a reason why it was on so many people’s game of the year shortlists last year. It’s just fun. It has a great retro vibe and some challenging gameplay. Also, there are three free upcoming DLC packs that will focus on some of the different bosses by making them playable characters. This should be a great ride over the next year as each DLC pack is released. Please just buy the game right now, you deserve to experience it!

This game is three-way Cross-Save and Cross-Buy, so purchasing it gets you the PS3, PS4 and Vita versions in one go!


Cost: $14.99 (Three-way Cross-buy)

PSN Game size: 150MB

You can purchase Shovel Knight from the PSN.

This review is based on PS4 and Vita digital copies provided by Yacht Club Games.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @the_nmac for more reviews and live streaming from the PS4. Also follow @PS4blog_net and @PS3blogdotnet for updates on PlayStation info and reviews you need.

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