Shovel Knight Dig review: another roguelike buried treasure | Digital Trends

    Shovel Knight Dig
    MSRP $24.99

    “Shovel Knight Dig punches above its spin-off weight class, even if its roguelike elements are a little modest.”


    Smart remix of the IP

    Fun vertical platforming

    Digging is a delight

    Ranked modes are a plus


    Inconsequential narrative

    Short on depth

    Lacking experimentation potential

    Last December, Yacht Club Games snuck one in every of my titles video games of 2021 in slightly below the wire: Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon. The indie was a left-field shock, ingeniously adapting key components of retro platformer Shovel Knight right into a fast-paced puzzle/roguelike hybrid. I left that have with a newfound appreciation for Yacht Club, respecting its capacity to dissect its beloved IP and reassemble it into one thing new moderately than spitting out an anticipated sequel. Its newest launch, Shovel Knight Dig, solely reinforces these emotions.
    Launching on iOS through Apple Arcade, Nintendo Switch, and PC, Shovel Knight Dig is each very totally different from and similar to Pocket Dungeon. It’s a extra conventional roguelike that borrows concepts from Downwell and Spelunky, moderately than an identical puzzle sport with an motion twist. The ethos of the 2 initiatives, nonetheless, is constant: They’re each titles that join the previous to the current.
    Shovel Knight Dig is probably too modest to be the following nice roguelike, but it surely’s one other fascinating piece of the franchise’s ongoing dialog with online game historical past. It additional twists Shovel Knight’s retro framework right into a pretzel, suggesting that the hole between “classic” and “modern” is way smaller than we would notice.
    Buried treasure
    Shovel Knight Dig as soon as once more chronicles the adventures of the collection’ titular hero as he digs by means of grime and rival knights alike. At this level, every Shovel Knight spin-off looks like an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon. The heroes, unhealthy guys, signature aesthetics, and glorious music all carry over however they’re reshuffled into one other low-stakes bottle episode. The free narrative justification right here is as irrelevant as it’s superfluous. There’s a pit that Shovel Knight must unravel. That’s all you could know.
    … a intelligent sport that speaks the language of recent roguelikes and arcade classics in the identical breath.

    What’s enjoyable about Shovel Knight as an entire is the way in which it chases historical past. The first sport was an homage to NES platformers, as if somebody had dug up a long-forgotten mascot from the period. Fully committing to the pastiche, Yacht Club is now bringing us a kind of alternate universe the place Shovel Knight replaces one thing like Mario. The extra it capitalizes on the IP with spin-offs like this, the extra it feels the half. If Pocket Dungeon was the collection’ Dr. Mario, Dig is probably its Wario Land.
    The remix this time round is that Shovel Knight makes his approach down a collection of vertically constructed ranges (they aren’t totally procedural, however they shuffle totally different platforming sequences collectively), utilizing his belief shovel to dig by means of grime blocks, gather gems, and pogo off of enemies. There are short-term relics and power-ups to achieve on every run, offering the normal roguelike hook of lucking into an excellent construct. It’s similar to Downwell, one other cellular roguelike that inverts expectations by having gamers platform whereas falling. The idea is a pure match for Shovel Knight — in actual fact, that sport’s motion methods make much more sense on this context. Of course, he’d use his shovel to dig downwards moderately than transfer facet to facet!

    Naturally, your mind may return to even older reference factors while you see it. It looks like a contemporary cousin of Dig Dug and Mr. Driller, taking the satisfying tunneling hook from these classics and stitching it right into a fast-paced motion sport. It’s an ideal match, creating some puzzle-like sequences the place gamers have to snake by means of grime shortly — however fastidiously in the event that they need to attain precious gems or every stage’s collectible cogs.
    I like that I can see the affect of each a 2015 and 1982 online game in right here, however I’m particularly impressed that these items match collectively this effectively. That’s one thing that was elementary to the unique Shovel Knight’s success, as Yacht Club created a sport that felt each preserved in amber and utterly new. That’s as soon as once more been achieved right here with a intelligent sport that speaks the language of recent roguelikes and arcade classics in the identical breath.
    Missing hyperlinks
    Downwell isn’t the one trendy sport that springs to thoughts once I’m taking part in. Dig shares some DNA with Spelunky as effectively, particularly in its strategy to secrets and techniques. Items like keys will path behind the blue hero, however can be dropped if he’s hit. There’s a slight metagame on high of the common ranges the place gamers have to piece collectively what every merchandise does after which safely attempt to escort it right down to its correct place. Getting an egg to a nest, as an example, provides gamers a chook companion that may assault enemies. Those micro-discoveries layer some added intrigue into every run and current extra high-level play when making an attempt to juggle a number of gadgets without delay (one thing I’m positive will come into play in its ranked modes, like each day runs).
    I can’t assist however really feel like Dig is holding again at occasions, scaling again to fulfill its spin-off positioning.

    It stops wanting digging as deep as a style staple like Spelunky, although. While my first two hours have been difficult and pushed me to look at and study my environment, every thing received a lot simpler once I unlocked an alternate armor set that decreased the quantity of harm I took. I breezed by means of ranges at that time, nearly solely ignoring the myriad of relics and perks meant to make every run really feel distinct as I melted down acquainted bosses with out a lot fear.
    I actually don’t thoughts the thought of a breezy roguelike that may be cleared after 4 or 5 hours (Lord is aware of the style may use extra video games like this). Pocket Dungeon efficiently took the identical strategy, choosing extra speedy closure over a protracted, sluggish climb. Though I can’t assist however really feel like Dig is holding again at occasions, scaling again to fulfill its spin-off positioning. I’d have beloved to see a extra assured roguelike that allowed for extra construct experimentation — not as a result of that’s what I need from the style and extra so as a result of the best items are there.

    Then once more, that limitation is a part of the appeal. If I’m actually shopping for into the alternate timeline the place Shovel Knight is NES franchise royalty, Dig actually does really feel like a type of lovable B-games the place you may see the builders having a blast as they remold the franchise like Playdough. The modest scale of titles like that’s a part of the attraction, turning them into shocking underdogs that punch above their weight class.
    I assume we’ll get a full-scale Shovel Knight 2 sooner or later, however I discover myself extra enthusiastic about these era-fusing facet releases for now. Like Pocket Dungeon, Shovel Knight Dig is one other little gem in Yacht Club’s rising treasure trove of a franchise.
    Shovel Knight Dig was reviewed on Steam Deck through a PC construct of the sport.

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