Fascination with Shovel Knight comes from a seemingly bygone age. Nostalgia for the first two generations of consoles’ restrictive innovations spurred the funding and creation of this modern mashup game. A charming pixel art aesthetic, precise controls, and classic platforming sentiments make Shovel Knight a joy to play. From DuckTales-esque hopping on the titular shovel, to activating your phase locket at just the right moment in a boss battle, even the chip tune soundtrack of Shovel Knight seems inspired by previous video games such as Mega Man. Regardless, it’s a fresh experience for fans of older video games and new ones alike.
In structure, Shovel Knight takes influence from more modern, non-linear experiences than the games of old. Despite this, Shovel Knight’s overworld design is nearly analogous to that of Super Mario Bros. 3. Moving from board to board in straight lines, Shovel Knight can enter any number of other Knight’s villainous domains to challenge and defeat them, not unlike the Robot Masters of Mega Man. One of the interesting things about Shovel Knight is that it discards the lives system for a more modern Dark Souls-esque approach. The player is bound to die while navigating the dangerous domains of the Order of No Quarter and often does while experimenting with the novel concepts at play within each screen. When Shovel Knight does take his last breath, a small portion of the gold you’ve acquired in your travels, scaling ever higher as your stash increases, is left behind for you to recover and you are sent back to the closest checkpoint.
When I first played Shovel Knight, I felt the nagging sensation that I had played the game before. This didn’t seem too uncommon a response to the transformative use of elements from a variety of older video games, but it still stuck in my mind. Eventually, I discovered the connection I made was strongly related to its music. Jake “virt” Kaufman is the prolific composer behind both games’ stunning soundtracks. Even beyond that though, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why’d You Steal Our Garbage (HIKWYSOG) fits the spirit and style of Shovel Knight.
For those of you unfamiliar with the title, HIKWYSOG plays a lot like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. There is a top down overworld with mild random encounters, a series of dungeons to play through with interesting bosses, (all of which are personalities from Pendleton Ward’s breakout cartoon) and a linear progression with the development of special traversal and combat abilities. I’d strongly suggest fans of both Shovel Knight and Adventure Time try out HIKWYSOG for a well crafted experience of quirky characters and fun retro play. Just like the Bard that collects the music tracks of Shovel Knight’s journey, Finn and Jake’s BMO can recall all the songs you’ve heard in your quest to recover that stolen garbage. My personal favorite track is Party in the Clouds, but the whole OST can be found for free on SoundCloud.