After Neal picked his jaw up off the floor, he wrote this preview of Shovel Knight.
The logline for Yacht Club Games' debut work, Shovel Knight, is like something out of retro heaven. It's like Mega Man and the combat from Zelda II had a baby that was visited by some crazy uncles named Scrooge and Simon Belmont. You play as the spade-bearing title character and work your way through different levels while taking out the robot master-esque Order of No Quarter.
The game's structure is slated to be like U.N. Squadron, according to Yacht Club's Sean Velasco. What that means is that you might start off playing one level, and after you beat that, you open up two more. Those two can be played in whatever order you choose, which in turn might open up four more that you can play in any order.
The build at PAX East ran on PC (and was oddly playable with a PlayStation 3 controller), however, the game is slated to come to Wii U and 3DS. As for what will differ in those versions and how the second screen will be used, the team isn't quite sure. They assure us, however, that they might have some ideas and it will be “awesome.” This can be seen as a clear indicator of how early in development Shovel Knight truly is. While the team is optimistic that they'll meet their September release window, the only playable section they have is the PAX East demo. Fortunately, that demo level is finely tuned and polished.
The demo highlights what you can do as the hero, such as digging up gold in dirt piles, poking enemies with your shovel, or bouncing off of the heads of enemies to reach hidden areas. One section showed a clever variation on the Mega Man trope of disappearing blocks. By bouncing off of a magical tome, you open its pages, and in turn reveal hidden blocks. The blocks disappear when the tome shuts, which sets you off on a race to get past the blocks and open up the next book before you plummet to your death.
The enemy design in this early form was like something out of an old Capcom/Disney game, with knights and propeller rats being the highlight. The knights especially were interesting from a combat perspective. By using a mixture of all the ways you can use your shovel, you kind of feel like you are dueling them. The mechanics aren't complicated, but the fusion of good enemy A.I. and balanced character abilities makes these fights with regular enemies rewarding. The demo ended with a boss battle with King Knight, which played similarly to the other knights you fought with some added complexity. King Knight, being the pompous ass he is, would pause to bask in his glory, leaving him open to attack but also causing damaging confetti to rain down on the environment.
If Shovel Knight's Kickstarter gets funded (as of this writing, it is almost there), it will be coming to Wii U and 3DS shortly after the PC version, which is slated for September.