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Review: Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
This game is not just good fun, it also stays fairly true to Christian moral values, making it a great addition to anyone's library!

ESRB Rating: E - Everyone
My Rating: Ages 6 and up
Genre: Platformer
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2014
Review Published On: May 13th, 2020
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam, Humble Store (Treasure Trove), Steam (Treasure Trove)

Save System:

Your progress is automatically saved whenever you clear a level; if you return to the map prematurely, anything you accomplished in that level is undone and the game restores your last save.

To pause the action, bring up the pause menu by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

While there is some mild violence, the bigger issue is the amount of magic present in the game's world. One level, The Lich Yard, is the prime example, as it's filled with ghosts, skeletons, and other undead monsters.

That said, it's no worse than say, Disney's Sleeping Beauty.


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Upon the gilded rooftops

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Spooky Scary Skeletons

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Tinker Knight goes all out in battle

Game Overview

Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope is the first game in the Shovel Knight franchise, and as such, it's the game that introduced the world to our heroic blue hero, his beloved Shield Knight, the evil Enchantress, and her nefarious yet eccentric Order of No Quarter. It's also a retro-themed platformer that would be right at home on a console like the NES, and over the years, Shovel Knight has become something of a mascot for retro-styled Indie games.

Our story begins after another one had ended; long ago, Shovel Knight and Shield Knight had worked together to bring peace and order to a lawless world. But alas, one fateful day a cursed amulet was activated, and Shield Knight disappeared. Lost in his grief, Shovel Knight retired to a quite life of solitude and reflection. However, years later, something evil has begun to stir at the old tower where he had last fought along side Shield Knight, and a new evil has come to pillage the land. Unable to stand by and watch, our hero raised his mighty shovel and returned to challenge this new threat.

Gameplay wise, Shovel of Hope is a combat-oriented platformer centered around the idea of themed characters. Each of the main characters are named after their respective gimmick, and each of the antagonists resides in a lair based around their theme. For example, Tinker Knight is obsessed with machines, and his stage is riddled with conveyor belts, gears, and other bits of random technology. As silly as it might sound, it's actually a good idea to judge a book by its cover in this world.

In order for Shovel Knight to save the day, he'll need to find and defeat all eight members of the Order of No Quarter and then take on the Enchantress' tower fortress. There aren't any shortcuts to be had, as the roads that take you across the map are often locked by gates that correspond to a specific Knight. This also means that you can't go after the antagonists in just any order; you'll need to open the paths to their lairs first.

In addition to the dangerous traps, each Knight's lair also contains a relic in some hidden location. These relics give Shovel Knight new abilities, though it costs some energy to put them to use. You don't need to hunt down every relic, but they can give you an edge in some levels and they'll be needed to travel through special puzzle levels found on the world map.

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot of extra stuff to do, items to find, and even some surprises hidden throughout the game. I'd strongly recommend giving this one a go, especially if you're fond of older games.

Points of Interest

Runs on humor and sense of fun
When your protagonist is running around saving the world by swinging a shovel, it's a little difficult to be all dark and gloomy. Fortunately, this entire franchise has built itself on wacky hijinks and simple fun. Characters are as likely to trade quips as they are blows, and even the smartest person in the room tends to regularly make really dumb decisions. For example, the guy who created this realm's first catapults insists that they are a means of transportation.
Tons of secrets and stuff to collect
In addition to the relics I mentioned above, you can also find treasure and sheet music in out of the way corners and secret areas. This is a game that loves to reward exploration and curiosity, so most of the levels have walls and floors that can be destroyed with a solid blow. Sometimes this will lead you to new areas, such as a minigame that's hidden away in one of the towns, but most of the time these walls hide treasure or healing items. If you're having trouble, keep an eye out for suspicious markings in the environment; there's usually an item that completely restores your health hidden in the room directly before a boss.

As for the sheet music, it belongs to a minstrel in the first town. He claims it was lost, but considering how many pieces ended up getting tucked into remote corners or locked in chests, I think somebody is simply preventing him from performing. Probably annoyed by the noise. Anyway, the minstrel will pay 500 gold pieces per song you recover, and if you want, you can ask him to play any song you've already found. Of course, there's also an achievement for finding them all, so get looking!
Failure is a tap on the wrist
Platformers often use a lives mechanic of some sort. Every time you are defeated or fall into a bottomless pit, you'll lose a life and when none are left, the game ends. Not so with this franchise. Instead of losing a life, you'll just drop some of the gold you've collected and get warped back to the last checkpoint you activated. If you can return to that location without dying again, you'll be able to reclaim that lost loot and continue on like nothing happened.
New Game+
After you've completed the game and saved the world, you can continue to explore from your current save file or you can upgrade your save into the New Game Plus mode and start the adventure all over again. This time, you'll start the game with all of the gold and items you'd earned in the previous playthrough, but the game adjusts itself to compensate for this: you'll have half the usual amount of health (ie, you'll receive double damage from enemies), many of the checkpoints have been removed, and most of those handy health pickup locations have been replaced with dangerous bombs!
Additional Challenges
Another option for especially skilled players is the Challenge Mode, which contains a total of 29 unique challenges to test your shoveling skills. About half of these levels are timed rematches against the bosses, and nearly every challenge limits you to only a fraction of your normal health.

Unexpectedly, the last three stages available in this mode are crossovers featuring the heroes of the Battletoads franchise, pitting the Shovel Knight against them in some of their most (in)famous levels.
Steam Community Features
Nearly all quality games have achievements these days, and Shovel Knight not only has them, but also uses their icons to highlight how difficult they are to earn. The forty five achievements are grouped into silver and gold "tiers" using this system. Silver tier achievements are generally earned by playing the game normally (eg, defeating members of the Order of No Quarter or purchasing various items), while gold tier achievements require a lot of careful planning and effort on your part. This ranking system doesn't seem to have entirely worked in practice, as the global leaderboards suggest that some gold achievements are easier than some silver ones.

Of course, there's also a set of Steam trading cards that you can earn while playing and replaying this game.

Concerns and Issues

Mild violence
Like the older games this title is based on, fighting mostly revolves around striking an enemy until they pop out of existence. Members of the Order of No Quarter and some other bosses have more dramatic responses to being defeated, but it's all extremely tame and very family friendly.
Magic and monsters
Seeing as this is game takes place in a fairytale world, it's not real surprising that there are dragons, ghosts, and other sorts of magic to be found. Most of the cast isn't able to use magic directly; instead, they typically rely on some form of technology or magical charm. For example, the player can't cast spells, but they can use magical relics. The Enchantress and a few random enemies are the only real spellcasters.

However, while everything is generally treated with the lightheartedness of a child's fairytale, there is a section of the game where things are unusually bleak and macabre. This is the Lich Yard, home of the Spectre Knight. The level takes you through grave yards and catacombs, all of which are filled with evil-looking skeletons and ghosts, and it ends with a battle against the scythe wielding phantasm himself.
According to the ESRB's content descriptors for this game, alcohol is used at some point. This caught me by surprise, as none of the items you can use are depicted as alcoholic, and nobody is ever shown to be inebriated. Usually when the ESRB warns people about the use of alcohol, one or both of those conditions are present. Searching around, I found that I'm not the only person wondering where this warning came from, and the best answer people are coming up with are non-player characters drinking from chalices and tankards in the medieval taverns and at feasts throughout the game.

There is also the possibility that someone at the ESRB interpreted the Troupple King's various ichors to be alcoholic in nature (as they are stored in magical chalices). The problem there is that ichor has always been a purely magical liquid (literally, it's the blood of the gods in Greek mythology), not an alcoholic beverage. More to the point, in Shovel Knight, it's magical fish spit, so again, not some sort of booze.
Possible homosexuality
This series has a feature called "body swapping". It allows the player to change the gender and pronouns of any of the major characters. It's a pretty cool idea and it'd be neat if more games supported something like this, but there is a small issue that comes with it. This only changes the character's appearance and pronouns; it doesn't change the events of the story. Since several characters are romantically involved, this means it's possible for the player to create homosexual pairings.