Shovel Knight (Hands-On) (Wii U) Preview

By Javier Jimenez 09.05.2013 2

Review for Shovel Knight (Hands-On) on Wii U

Cubed3 had the chance to tackle the PAX Demo of popular indie project Shovel Knight, resulting in much anticipation for the upcoming Wii U eShop release.

How does the game perform so far - is it a fitting tribute to classic platfomers or does the nostalgia mask an average experience?

Have Shovel, Will Dig

Shovel Knight is everything that's exciting about the indie side of the modern gaming landscape. Experimental, creative, different, made by gamers and funded directly by the public, no middle men, no mega-publishers. It's doesn't have the budget of a small nation and doesn't need to hit 5 million sales to turn a profit. It doesn't have micro-transactions, 3 hour CGI cutscenes, QTEs, or giant flashing arrows and button prompts telling you where to go and what to do.

Shovel Knight is just pure, distilled video gaming, start to finish. All the right ingredients are there in the PAX demo: Precise, satisfying jumping with good arc and weight, as well as air control; professional quality sprite collision detection; and combat that culls the best ideas from games like The Legend of Zelda II and Castlevania, resulting in quick, enjoyable tactical combat. All of this culminates in a boss fight (King Knight) that exemplifies the best of NES game design while surpassing the technical limitations of that venerable system.

To be fair, Shovel Knight has a pedigree that most indie titles don't have. Yacht Club Games, the developer, is composed of industry veterans from WayForward. They've worked on everything from Contra 4 to Double Dragon Neon. Oh, and their sprite artist, Nick Wozniak (a.k.a. "Woz"), is crazy good. One character was crafted over the course of 10 hours.

It's some good stuff, dear reader. And you can watch it happen on Yacht Club's Twitch channel, as Woz painstakingly crafts each and every pixel. That's the kind of transparency gamers can't get from something like Call of Duty. It's a great thing, really, the development guts that gamers never see, a bit of development magic to be a part of.

Screenshot for Shovel Knight (Hands-On) on Wii U

No One Knight Should Have all this Money

If you haven't kept up, Shovel Knight hit all of its Kickstarter goals. On the heels of its successful PAX showing, featured on Two Best Friends and other Youtube channels, on Twitch streams and everywhere else, it hit all the right notes for anyone who ever enjoyed a game like Zelda 2, Mega Man, Castlevania, or Duck Tales. Gamers threw money at the project until it reached over twice its initial goal, a grand total of over $300,000 U.S.

Added to the development plan were achievements, newgame+, a gender swap mode for the main character and bosses (possibly regular enemies), extra playable characters, a challenge mode similar to New Super Mario Brothers U, and a 4 player local battle mode. The game will land on the Wii U, 3DS, Steam, Linux, and Mac, and possibly more platforms after that.

When all was said and done, Yacht Club expressed their deepest gratitude. Initially only seeking $150,000, they were "blown away" by the response to the project. Bonus: the developer's lunches, initially projected as ramen noodles, were upgraded to pizza and tacos.

Suffice it to say, Shovel Knight seems to be taking off. And why not? Look at how cool his helmet looks. Also, he has a shovel. That's awesome.

Screenshot for Shovel Knight (Hands-On) on Wii U

An Empire of Shovels

Shovel Knight isn't done yet, though. Yacht Club Games has a lot of work ahead of them. Their current goal is to rent and move into a proper office building. Development is already under way, as evidenced by the sprite and animation work, however it will really ramp up at that time.

Right now, if you want to keep up with the project, you can follow Yacht Club Games at any of the following social links...

We recommend the twitch streams in particular. Not only can you watch Woz work his magic, you can also watch the rest of Yacht Club play classic games. Right now they're doing "Mega May", which is a marathon of every Mega Man game.

It's worth a watch just to hear the team discuss The Blue Bomber's influences on Shovel Knight's game design, as well as their conversations on everything from animated cartoons to the state of the game industry.

Screenshot for Shovel Knight (Hands-On) on Wii U

Smooth Sailing from Here On

After playing the PAX demo, after talking to the developers and watching them do their work, we'd honestly be shocked if Shovel Knight was anything less than great. The technical and artistic expertise is evident. It seems less a matter of "if" and more of "when".

After that, though, we have to wonder where this team will go next. Super Shovel Knight? Shovel Knight X? Shovel Knight 64? Something completely different?

Screenshot for Shovel Knight (Hands-On) on Wii U

Final Thoughts

All we can say is if it's half as interesting as the first two months of their existence, Yacht Club Games has a bright future ahead of it.


Yacht Club Games


Yacht Club Games


2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


I'm really excited about this game and so glad it's going to come to Nintendo formats. Can't wait to see how the final product turns out, because if the early preview's anything to go by, it's going to be just as good, if not better, than the work done when they were under WayForward!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

i may be by my self but i feel zelda II the advendure of link was the best zelda of the original nes era... I also feel that that format of game play is the insparation of the newer 3d zelda titles Ocarina, Twilight, wind waker ,......i feel the direction that they decided to go for this game was perfect....theres a pure ness to the game we have not seen in a long time.

( Edited 07.02.2014 23:34 by curtiscdragon )

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