Friday, May 26, 2017

It still hurts my thumbs

As a general rule I do not enjoy retro games. I played games that looked that bad, and yes they look bad, it is not a stylistic choice, when I was young so why should I play more games that look bad now? Shovel Knight does not look exactly bad but it certainly looks simple: limited colors, limited animations, etc. But god damn if it was not a tight, focused, strangely touching experience that lasted exactly as long as it needed to.

Let's not mince words: Shovel Knight is made in homage of Mega Man. If it wasn't good I would call it a rip off but it is good so I will give it the creative benefit of the doubt. Instead of gaining powers by killing other knights the Shovel Knight must purchase them but the effect is the same: he has a slowly expanding stable of abilities that increase the complexity of the combat and keep the game interesting.

I hesitate to call it difficult as I am not sure if my failures were due to not having played a game like this in quite a while or the fact that the left joy con on a Switch doesn't have a fucking d-pad. Regardless, deaths were plentiful in some areas but t never felt cheap. The game goes out of its way to educate the player, introducing a concept in a room where death is impossible before pulling the rug out.

For example: Shovel Knight comes across a large pit of lava that there is no way across. There is a strange green blob at the edge and, because it is the only option, he hits it, knocking into the lava. The lava is turned (temporarily) into a trampoline, allowing him to cross. Next room has two pits, third room has multiple green blobs. It builds on itself in complexity without being frustrating. Some modern games could learn a thing or two from this process.

The 8-bit-ness of the graphics and music did not wear on me as I expected. Would it be nice if it was hand drawn, high res sprites like Dragon's Crown? Of course, but this was a Kickstarted game so I will take what I can get.

Shovel Knight was started on a flight from Detroit to Austin. It was played on and off in my hotel room, then on a flight from Austin to Dallas and finally, thanks to an on tarmac delay in Dallas, finished as I landed in my home town. Every moment of it, including a surprisingly heart felt ending, was worth it. So this is what a hand held system is for.

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