Many have tried to recreate the magic of the 8-bit era of gaming but few are as successful as the folks at Yacht Club Games. The original Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove represented everything right about the era of games from the eighties. Played with an NES controller, anyone could be fooled into believing they were playing on a Famicom. The recreation of history continues into the 16-bit era, as Shovel Knight Dig looks straight out of the nineties. Just as Mega Man X bridged the gap between two generations of game systems, Shovel Knight Dig feels like the perfect evolution of the franchise into the Super Nintendo era.
Not only is Shovel Knight Dig a transition into a new era, but it also heralds the transition to a new genre. Dig ditches the handcrafted Mega Man-esque level design of its predecessor and instead embraces Roguelike procedural generation. As a big fan of Treasure Trove, the switch of genre initially feels quite jarring. Instead of traveling left to right, Shovel Knight digs straight down, with branching paths that lead to a number of different rewards. Each section has a theme and ends with a familiar Capcom inspired boss battle, so the Shovel Knight feeling is still present. The total playthrough really depends on skill level since beginning to end can be accomplished in a couple of hours. In true Roguelike fashion, it all depends on how many times Shovel Knight has to restart a run after a fateful death.
The genre may be different, but the way Shovel Knight moves and feels is still the same. The trademark wielding of a shovel for both bashing and stomping feels smooth and consistent. In keeping with the genre, a random secondary weapon (or relic as they are called) is both equippable and swappable. Depending on the route, and your luck, different weapons are available that range from close combat knives to projectile weapons.
It’s your standard Roguelike fare, different runs result in different weapon loadouts which can be unlocked upon death back at the homebase area. After finishing a boss battle, route skipping can be unlocked for a price, and at a risk. Skipping an entire area is nice to avoid the repetition of certain areas but all the benefits of powering up Shovel Knight as are also foregone. Shovel Knight Dig feels like a pretty standard Roguelike, it has all of the hallmarks you’d expect and nothing that really stands out from the genre. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for fans of the genre, but for folks who’ve played too many Roguelikes, Dig may come across feeling stale.
I’m certainly happy that the Shovel Knight franchise continues to thrive, and none of the magic has been lost with step up to 16-bit graphics. I’m personally a bit worn out from the tidal wave of great Roguelike titles but Dig certainly represents the genre well. From the trademark humour and solid retro vibes, Yacht Club Games delivers another satisfying adventure for new and retro gaming fans alike.
7.5 / 10
- New 16-bit graphics look terrific and keep the same spirit as the original
- Well written trademark humour throughout
- Solid controls, nails that retro feeling once again
- Feels too similar to other popular retro-inspired Roguelikes
- Experience can be short for higher skilled players
Shovel Knight Dig releases on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Apple Arcade on September 23, 2022. This review is based on the Steam version with a code provided by publisher Yacht Club Games.