Via a dark alchemy involving sprites, chiptunes, and slaughtering 16-bit game cartridges with a sacrificial dagger, some games are able to induce a state in which you’re either transported back to your gaming youth or tricked into thinking your virtual adolescence was formed of pixels and not polygons. You need only glance at the image above to know you’re dealing with just such a game.
Don’t be fooled by its pixel-hipster aesthetic and side-scrolling format, Shovel Knight is about more than pushing tin. Yacht Club Games bends old-school RPG and platforming elements to its will here, mixing persistent character upgrades with milimetre-perfect jumping and near-impossible boss fights against the other knights of the realm. All of whom, incidentally, have fallen into the clutches of the Enchantress and now guard their respective zones from your razor-sharp spade of justice.
And just in case we have to spell it out, this isn’t a game about digging. The mighty Shovel Knight’s weapon of choice is actually both a powerful melee weapon and a traversal tool. Also, it digs stuff. Alright, we lied, there’s a bit of digging. Sue us. But having managed to hop over a screenful of floating rocks on its blade (think cane-hopping from DuckTales: Remastered) you’ll be glad of a bit of topsoil-bothering to uncover some gems.
There’s already a lot of fanfare for Shovel Knight based on its magnificent versions on PC and (looks around shiftily) other platforms, but Yacht Club Games wants to make PlayStation the definitive place to play it. How? Number one: Kratos is in it. The Kratos, chiselled murderer of close relatives and platform legend. He’ll appear as a boss, based on the dev’s early teaser. Number two: it’s available across PS4 and PS Vita with Cross-Save enabled and bespoke rear touchpad controls for the latter (we wouldn’t rule out touchpad functions for the DualShock 4, either).
Prepare to relive the very best bits of your early gaming days – or at least pretend you were around for the 8-bit golden age. We won’t tell.