Very few characters can claim iconography that can swell the heart like Shovel Knight. In March of 2013, a number of projects had come through the doors of Kickstarter, with many never reaching their goal. Inspired by classic NES games like Zelda II and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Shovel Knight was successfully funded and more than tripled its goal. With the release of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, the promises made in 2013 chutting on the book of the shovel-wielding azure knight and his foes. Or so many of us thought.
But it was not to be. For so long as there are those who would bring harm to the land, so too will Shovel Knight’s call to adventure continue to toll. In Shovel Knight Dig, as Shovel Knight rests at his campsite, he is ambushed by Drill Knight and must sally forth with only his trusty shovel at his side. Descending below, Shovel Knight uses the primary function of his weapon to dig through procedurally generated levels stitched together to allow for unique experiences on multiple playthroughs. Each descent promises to differ and with a variety of enemies, it’s unlikely to ever play through the exact same run twice.
New and repurposed enemies are abound as Shovel Knight digs his way through various obstacles, traps, and helicopter rodents carrying explosives to delve deep enough to enter a boss’s chamber. There the Hexavators, new knights unaffiliated with the Order of No Quarter from previous titles, leading to brand new boss encounters unlike any we’ve seen before. For the demo, Shovel Knight did battle with Spore Knight, whose new mechanics challenge Shovel Knight in ways the Order could only dream of.
The mushroom inspired knight slings his purple helm as a weapon itself as he works to destroy the very topography of your battle, leading to the experience of trying to play hot potato between the fungus based tactics of Spore Knight and the ever changing and disappearing dirt under Shovel Knight’s boots. The smaller knight is no stranger to bold tactics as he leaps into close quarters in an attempt to slam his giant pink helm into you, all while his spores restrict your options for safe ground.
The second feature at the Yacht Club Games booth was the chance to play the recently announced Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon: a mashup of Shovel Knight, pocket fighters, and dungeon crawlers. The falling block puzzles that make up the game are unique and intricate, as you use Shovel Knight to attack different icons and enemies, requiring a careful back and forth between health potions to stay alive, gather treasure and keys that unlock the exit and end the level, and enemies that impact you with damage when you attempt to attack them. This leads to on the fly calculations that require different approaches depending on the status of Shovel Knight’s health and the damage he takes from each attack.
With each drop being randomized, no level feels repetitive, and it’s easy to see the goal of making every enemy dangerous if you encounter them in low health. There are no cool tricks or maneuvers you can use to cheese your way to victory. Shovel Knight and more than ten of his enemies and allies are playable, each with a different power and play style. Whereas the original game only featured a versus mode alongside the story, Pocket Dungeon adds a cooperative mode as well.
There is a lot to be excited about, and even if none of these games are the long-theorized Shovel Knight X many of us anticipated, both Dig and Pocket Dungeon are bringing us more of our favorite shovel-wielding cobalt crusader.
Shovel Knight Dig and Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon are still in development with no announced release date.