Shovel Knight Dig is a roguelite quest

Shovel Knight sleeps by the campfire.

screenshot: Yacht Club Games

I love almost everything the shovel knight games. The retro inspiration, bespoke pixel art animations, and perfect platforming – they’re perfectly calibrated to make me say, “Yes, YES, more please!” Not so with me Shovel Knight Dig, Unfortunately. It is that first release in the Yacht Club lineup to make me feel cool It’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as the rest.

Shovel Knight Diga collaboration with Gunbrick manufacturer Nitrom, puts the hero in a race against time to dig through a random maze of monsters, HazArde and Gems looking for his stolen treasure bag. You’ll discover a selection of helpful items and powers along the way, and most of the gems you collect on each run are banked for spending on unlocking items for future playthroughs.

It is a roguelite structure familiar to anyone who has played such games Enter the dungeon, Rogue legacyand Hadesand at least theoretically, it should fit perfectly. A similar format was used for last years Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeona dungeon crawler with matching tiles that I absolutely adored.

A mole gets a fireball in the face.

screenshot: Yacht Club Games

This time, however, something is wrong. The game feels overly punishing in places, while exploration and rewards lack enough variety to keep me coming back for more. for one Shovel Knight Dig feels very cramped, possibly to facilitate a mobile version (I’ve been playing on Switch). That makes sense for a game about digging through an underground maze, but it leads to a lot of frustrating situations where enemies hit you after you’ve just gotten up closeScreen. It’s also not very forgiving when it comes to quickly changing paths. Shovel Knight can only dig left, right, or down, and if you dash into an open spot before you mean to, there’s little you can do to stay on course.Correctly.

shovel knightThe bouncing shovel of returns, and is a key mechanic for avoiding spikes, killing enemies, or jumping off them to reach an item or side shop. However, there’s no way not to use it, and any piece of earth you fall on will instantly disappear, again limiting your options for killing an enemy or getting to the location you want. However, most hazards leave very little room for error: you have to be very fast and very precise your efforts to hop over it drill or lava basin. Take too long to think about it and an instant kill excavator chasing you just offscreen eventually catches up and ends the run.

Those rough edges, compounded by the randomized layout, would be easier to ignore when I feel the urge to try my luck on a new run with a different set of powerups, though Shovel Knight DigThe upgrades feel sparse and uncooked. A magical anvil will automatically deal damage to a powerful enemy once you encounter them, while a wand summons fireballs that ricochet off walls. However, nothing I encountered felt like a game changer or exciting enough to bother unlocking more.

Shovel Knight prepares to decapitate a dragon.

screenshot: Yacht Club Games

Shovel Knight Dig is unusually minimalist in this way. Instead of a steady stream of stat upgrades and better powers, I often found myself walking through an entire dungeon (three levels and a boss fight) without feeling a strong sense of progression. Each zone has three golden gears that unlock one vault just before you descend into the next. A couple get a health item and a set of gems, while grabbing all three will give you random upgrades e.g. B. the ability to jump higher or use a magic item more often. However, the gears can be destroyed by bombs and other traps, and the unforgiving platform makes it easy to miss one on the way down.

It’s a shame the levels aren’t fun to navigate and the powers aren’t very exciting anymore because overall it remains a snappy arcade experience and every other aspect of the presentation makes me want to love it Shovel Knight Dig. However, having come close to beating it once, I just can’t muster up the courage to go back and fiddle with it again. Maybe I’ll try again when the DLC comes out. Until then I’m going back Pocket dungeon. Shovel Knight Dig is a roguelite quest

Curtis Crabtree

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