Its easy to tell what games inspired Shovel Knight in the first five minutes of playing it. Its Mega Man, DuckTales, Zelda II, Super Mario Bros. 3, and even a little Castlevania. The problem is that three hours later when you’ve finished this game, you realize that its a game so wrapped up in wanting be all these classic games that it actually did nothing unique. If you liked all those previously mentioned games you’ll probably get a kick out of Shovel Knight for one playthrough but you’ll probably forget this game even existed six months from now.
The nicest thing I can say about Shovel Knight is that Yacht Club Games is very adept at taking a lot of the best things that made retro games so fun. You can tell this team lives and breathes Mega Man and the NES Duck Tales games. They’ve done a pretty good job replicating those games in Shovel Knight, but I think Shovel Knight ends up not having an identity of its own. You have Stages built just like Mega Man stages and Shovel Knight himself plays almost exactly like Scrooge McDuck played like in those NES Duck Tales games right down to the fact that shovel knight can bounce on enemy with his shovel.
The only unique thing Shovel Knight does with its stages are the check points which you can destroy for extra money but means that you can no longer restart at that checkpoint. The problem is that there really isn’t much you need with money and the only thing the game really rewards you for destroying all the check points is a pseudo-achievement point. So basically nothing.
The stages themselves are fine, but none of them seem consistently the same length. Spectre Knight and King Knight have relatively short and breezy stages while Propeller Knight’s stage just NEVER ENDS. The real issue I had with the stages is that all the stages revolve around the Duck Tales “Cane/pogostick bounce” feature. Because you don’t actually end up taking Boss’ signature moves like in Mega Man and the fact that the moves you can get in Shovel Knight are entirely optional, it means the game revolves only around this one feature. A feature that was already fully explored in 2013’s Duck Tales remake but also again this year in Donkey Kong: Jungle Freeze. Its a tired mechanic and its too bad that Shovel Knight bet all its chips on it.
I actually didn’t hate Shovel Knight, I just wish it was more of its own game and didn’t rely so much on only piggybacking on classic mechanics. I think Shovel Knight is worth checking out, but I’d definitely wait for a price drop or find a time machine so you could have backed the game for ten bucks rather than spending the 15 bucks it costs now. If there is one thing I can recommend from Shovel Knight, its the music which you can luckily pay for here for any price you want to give the composer: http://virt.bandcamp.com/album/shovel-knight-original-soundtrack