Respect the shovel.
At last! Shovel Knight's release is nigh! Has it really been over a year since Yacht Club Games splintered off WayForward and announced a Kickstarter for their retro-styled game heavily inspired by the "pogo stick" move from DuckTales? In the meantime, their old pals at WayForward have announced AND released DuckTales: Remastered. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze recently came out as well, and joins in on the pogo stick action.
Like many Kickstarter projects that quadruple their fundraising targets, Yacht Club games has had to push back the release date of Shovel Knight as the project became more ambitious. I'm a patient guy, but the backers might feel differently. It seems like it will have been worth the wait, though.
DuckTales: Remastered has come and gone, and while it was beautiful and expanded the levels of the classic game, it was content we had mostly seen before. As for Tropical Freeze, it might have adopted the pogo stick mechanic, but without the level design to match, it felt a little pointless.
Thankfully, this means Shovel Knight has not lost its thunder quite yet. And to the nostalgic retro look and precise platforming action of the original pitch, so much has been grafted. Towns! Fishing! More puns around digging! Music tracks by Mega Man composers! The scope and variety of environments and enemies seem to have greatly expanded: Vikings that are all beard in a frigid forest setting, skeletons in clockwork castles straight out of Castlevania, and much more to satisfy fans of old school action platformers.
Combat is quite a bit more involved than in Capcom's classic game, too. In addition to jumping on enemies shovel-ready, you can face enemies directly and swing the shovel at them at extremely close range. And some shield-wielding enemies can block, so you have to quickly alternate between side and overhead attacks, similar to how you would take on the Iron Knuckles in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Moreover, who knew that a well-timed swing of a shovel can send fireballs back at the wizard who cast them?
The wait is almost over. There is no definitive release date, but the game is being tested for the platforms it will be released on (including both the 3DS and the Wii U) and should be out in "a few weeks." It's been almost a year since I played the still impressive PAX East 2013 demo, and I can't wait to explore the new areas and try out the new mechanics we've seen in the latest trailers.