Digging Too Deep
HIGH More Shovel Knight and new Knights!
LOW The platforming isn’t as precise as the original.
WTF The moment I accidentally rolled credits.
Hi everyone! Eugene Sax here with another review from Gamecritics.com.
I fell in love with Shovel Knight back when the original released in 2014. Everything about it was honed to perfection — the 2D platforming, the abilities, level design, and the cast of characters. All flawless. With Shovel Knight Dig combining the pedigree of the original Shovel Knight and combining it with roguelike elements, I thought it would be a sure-fire hit. But now? I’m not entirely convinced.
Shovel Knight Dig is a roguelike platformer where players control everyone’s favorite guy in armor with a shovel. Minding their own business, they’re attacked by the evil Drill Knight, who steals their bag of items and escapes by digging down into the earth. Shovel Knight dives in after them, eager to reclaim their goods as well as one very important item in the bag. Players will run into friends, foes and acquaintances, both new and old, as they chase Drill Knight underground.
Similar to the original Shovel Knight, Dig features running, jumping, slashing, and pogoing, but players will also be using their shovel to dig through each level, both horizontally and vertically. There’s also more focus here on traversal through each level, rather than on defeating enemies.
As they travel, players will have to be careful where they dig or they may miss special items hidden through the levels like golden gears or gems used to buy powerups that last for one run — remember, this is a roguelike. There are also special areas that hold secrets for the players to find, and as one would expect, there are boss fights at the end of each area. However, don’t think you can take as much time as you like and comb all the goods from each zone — there’s a deadly machine that will eliminate Shovel Knight in one quick motion if they’re too slow.
While these things make Dig stand out from the rest of the Shovel Knight canon, where it really diverges are the roguelike aspects.
Each new run will always start in the “Mushroom Mines” area controlled by Spore Knight. However, players will then have a branching path to choose what’s next. One path may have a shop for health and an abundance of flying enemies, while the other may have no flying baddies, but a difficult mini-boss or perhaps even a bonus, like a new ability. After going through a series of these levels and defeating the big boss as the end of the zone, an option appears to let players choose which of two knights to go after next.
Apart from the varying route choices, the roguelike structure here means that there are some items and upgrades players will have to re-obtain if they die during a run since not all items and abilities are permanent. However, while a chunk of accumulated treasure will be lost upon death, some will remain and be stored in order to unlock items on future runs.
So where we stand at the moment is that Dig has the style of Shovel Knight and solid roguelike elements, but the problem is they don’t mesh together as well as one would hope.
Due to the new elements of play, it feels like the controls were changed in a way that dampens the nuance of the original. The crisp edges of movement and action feel less snappy and less intentional, though they do have some forgiveness if the input isn’t quite perfect. There are also occasions that feel weirdly inconsistent in terms of jump height, and some of the enemy hitboxes are strange — I took unintentional damage in some places, or sometimes an enemy got me because it phased through my attack. Some of these things led to a death in an otherwise good run, but even when it did, the experience is quick enough to restart that I didn’t mind it much.
What I feel is a bigger issue is the length of the campaign and the content it has — or lack thereof.
I spent about an hour in the first area trying to get my bearings and relearning how Shovel Knight controlled since the new style made the controls feel floaty, as I just mentioned. After I came to grips with it, I got on a run where I was given an item that doubled my health, and ended up rolling credits on the same run. All told, it was less than two hours.
I stuck around a bit longer since I knew there were some knights I hadn’t yet faced and I wanted to see what was left. After a couple of additional levels, I realized there wasn’t much. Sure, I could continue to unlock additional items, weapons, and armor, but to what end? The story didn’t change, and there wasn’t any additional difficulty that could be added to add challenge in a run. I had accidently finished the game and was left wanting more.
I love the Shovel Knight world, and I enjoyed my fling with Dig. The roguelike itch got scratched, I liked the new knights, and the sound and aesthetics are all there. There’s just not enough of it with a potential runtime just shy of two hours. If I hadn’t played the original, it would be a great gateway into Yacht Club’s creation, but having played through most of it already, I was hoping for something that would tide me over a little longer.
For me, Shovel Knight Dig gets a 7.5 out of 10.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Nitrome and Yacht Club Games, and published by Yacht Club Games. It is currently available on Switch, PC, and Apple Arcade. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 3 hours of play were spent playing the game, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains Fantasy Violence. Players will be slashing at enemies or pogoing on them with a shovel, and enemies turn into smoke and a shower of gems when defeated.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is text in game, but text is not resizable. Audio mostly serves aesthetic purposes and is not needed for gameplay. The game is completely accessible.
Remappable controls: Controls are completely remappable.