Dig is an intriguing evolution of an indie favorite

Shovel Knight: Dig

Shovel Knight: Dig
picture: Yacht Club Games

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When shovel knight came back in first June 2014, which felt like the pinnacle of a new wave of indie games. Designed by Yacht Club Games, the brightly colored platformer was an early success of the Kickstarter game development movement, and successfully blended old-school NES-style jumping and slicing – including a very direct crib of the very good pogo-stick jumping mechanic from Capcom’s classic duck stories Game – with modern ideas on game design. (There are even some Dark Souls in if you squint.) It was also one of the first games where, say, arm The 8-bit art style of yesteryear for a combination of aesthetic and nostalgic triumphs that helped spark 8 million discussions about the merits of this look. (And also about six billion Aside from my colleague Sam Barsanti, he growls every time we talk about indie games.)

Eight years later, however, the interesting thing about it shovel knight isn’t what it looks like, or even how it plays – although it still plays smooth I’m happy to report. No, what’s interesting about that shovel knight in 2022, Yacht Club has been working to take it beyond one game into an entire franchise, though only three games have been released so far – with the latest, Shovel Knight: Diga joint production with Nitrome, hit Steam, Switch and Apple Arcade last week.

Shovel Knight Dig pendant

dig is a strange beast, the newest in a long queue by developers trying to take an existing gameplay structure and translate it into the world of the super-trending roguelike genre – i.e. this now extremely reliable way of extending a game’s playing time by inserting some computer-generated levels, some ‘play it Just one more time, okay?” progression schemes and the exciting possibility of losing a bunch of progress if you die. shovel knight, an enduring triumph of level design, is at first glance an odd candidate for this sort of transfusion. The solution seems to have been, uh, homage another villain classic – in this case the brilliant Ojiro Fumoto Below– and combine it with a computer-generated map of individual rooms, all bearing the design cues of Yacht Club’s intelligent, challenging level-building approach. The result is interesting, even if it frustrates or pushes the boundaries of this roguelike-it-up! approach.

The weirdest thing about it dighowever, is the fact that it will be released as a standalone product at all. shovel knight is, after all, one of the most popular indie games of all time; the treasure trove Version of the game now includes four full-length games in their vast archives, with the last three campaigns – Plague Of Shadows, Specter Of Torment and King Of Cards – slowly being rolled out over the last few years. Each comes with a new story, new gameplay mechanics, and in the case of King, even a brand new collectible card game to blow players’ minds. (And even here I’m glossing over the additional multiplayer battle game mode!)

From a business standpoint, that amount of post-release support was frankly ridiculous – a result of a now-gone era in which brave developers tried to outdo each other in how big and awesome their Kickstarter stretch goals could be. From a player perspective, it was much easier to interpret it as an amazing act of generosity; It was really wonderful to check in again shovel knight every year or so and you’ll find a whole new campaign to get through. (No one can criticize that they didn’t get their money’s worth with this bundle — or begrudge the Yacht Club for actually trying to finally sell a new video game.) And from a development perspective… well, from a development perspective Yacht Club Games has done extremely well shovel knight.

Because while you can argue with some of the top-level design decisions on display in dig– the power-up economy, which is one of those things that is crucial to the feel of growth in a good roguelike, is chaotic as hell, for just one thing – it’s very hard, with the basic mechanics of digging , slicing and arguing hop your way down through its endless levels. One of the great things about the various shovel knight Campaigning was how each of the main playable characters interacted with jumping in different ways, each time changing the most fundamental verb of platforming. (Plague Knight, for example, exploded while King Knight slammed into walls to get some air.)

By returning to Shovel Knight’s basic shovel jump – and making it in one clever move mandatory Every time you jump, the developers show their hard-won ability to turn the basic building blocks of a platformer into a complex, physics-heavy puzzler. There is even a little Tony Hawk Mixed here, with gems or enemy placements encouraging players to think of these less as rooms to traverse and more lines and combos to master. It’s exciting at the micro level, even if the macro leaves a lot to be desired – and it’s hard to imagine making it without the long, weird road the developers took to get here.

https://www.avclub.com/shovel-knight-dig-review-1849595313 Dig is an intriguing evolution of an indie favorite

Andrew Schnitker

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