LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig

Shovel Knight Dig Review

Game: Shovel Knight Dig
Genre: Action, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows) (also on Nintendo Switch and IOS)
Developer|Publisher: Nitrome | Yacht Club Games
Controller Support: YES
Price: UK £19.49 | US $ 22.49 | EU € 22,49
Release Date: September 23rd, 2022

Review code provided with many thanks to Yacht Club Games. 

All Hail Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight hasn’t been around long in the gaming sphere, but he’s already made quite the mark on it. From small humble beginnings as a successful Kickstarter project, to a title exploding with content across multiple platforms. I originally played the game on 3DS and was delighted that they still updated it despite the Switch becoming the dominant console for Nintendo.

Shovel Knight is a game made by developers that care about their audience. So much so that they have given other indie developers the chance to produce titles in the franchise. First came Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon which put an excellent puzzle roguelike spin on the series. Now we have Shovel Knight Dig, a game that puts a fun and addictive spin on the action roguelike formula.

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Who needs a drill when you have a shovel

A Rude Awakening

Shovel Knight was just taking a humble nap when Drill Knight suddenly decided to create a giant big hole in the land, stealing Shovel Knight’s loot in the process. It’s handy your weapon of choice is a shovel as you immediately dive into the abyss pursuing Drill Knight and your precious loot. The game wastes no time getting you into the gameplay.

The story is peppered in between levels and runs with text interactions with NPCs and the boss knights. The world and some of the characters will be familiar to fans of the original Shovel Knight. But even if you’re jumping into the series for the very first time you won’t feel lost. In fact, Shovel Knight Dig is set before the events of all prior games making this a great jumping-on point. If the story is not really your thing, Shovel Knight Dig focuses heavily on its gameplay which is just great.

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Don’t forget to take a break from long game sessions

Dig for Victory 

Shovel Knight Dig is a 2D action title. The main goal of the game is to dig your way to the bottom of the level collecting oodles of gems, defeating enemies and collecting the odd upgrade in the process. The term ‘pick up and dig’ is well suited to the game’s design. The controller was definitely my preferred method for this experience although the keyboard is an option on PC. Although there’s no tutorial, if you have ever played a 2D action platformer your muscle memory will serve you well. But if you still need a hand, the controls are displayed clearly in the options.

You can jump and use your shovel to dig and attack enemies or use a magic spell. You can dig horizontally and vertically downwards but not upwards. By making use of mashing the dig button you can traverse large horizontal sections of the level provided there is a patch of dirt to help you along. It feels like an incredibly fluid version of Mr Driller if you’re a retro chap or chapette. Each level is littered with secrets to find which are usually discovered by attacking cracks in the walls.

You can find various NPCs who will sell you upgrades or perks including adding new attacks to your shovel or buffs to your stats. Sometimes you’ll find keys and eggs which you’ll need to carry safely to their destination to reap their rewards. Taking too many hits while carrying these will lead to their destruction. This encourages you to play more carefully rather than rush. Get the key to the lock and you unlock secret rooms or even levels, get the eggs to the nest and you’ll hatch a little buddy to help you in the run. 

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Just roll with it

Collect the Cogs

Throughout the level, you can also collect 3 giant cogs. If you reach the end of the level with these you’ll be able to refill your health or unlock a new random perk. Without all three you will still gain some gems and health pickups so it’s not all lost. Before a new level begins you get to pick from two paths each will showcase small signs to signify what dangers and challenges await you. This is where the random generation shines.

It’s pretty commonplace to see random level generation in roguelike games but every run in Shovel Knight Dig felt fresh. You will see familiar enemies’ designs but level presentation rarely feels familiar. Once you survive three levels it’s boss time. This is where some of the similarities of the original game surface. Boss encounters are tough but very satisfying. The random generation also comes into these fights with the level design often changing when you visit the boss again. 

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Grab some loot then pick your path

Death will come regularly as is the way. But with each failure Shovel Knight will jump up, pose for victory and return to the surface to try the run again. Like the original game, you will lose a portion of your loot, which you can recollect on your next run. Any spare gems can then be spent unlocking new items to find in future runs, as well as new armour sets and shortcuts to completed levels. It’s here where a small niggle surfaces.

If you’re an experienced roguelike player you may be disappointed that there isn’t a whole lot of unlocks compared to other roguelikes on the market. It feels very thin compared to titans like Enter the Gungeon. While lacking in content the game makes up for it in its gameplay which really had me coming back run after run.

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Meet some familiar faces

Next Gen Knight

Graphics are presented with colourful and vibrant pixel art that is reminiscent of the 16-bit era. A generation step-up from the original game with smooth animations and flawless performance. But then this is the PC version. Although you may be digging into the depths, the level variety is impressive.

You have water areas, lava areas and of course, your dirt-filled areas, with unique enemies and hazards to each area giving each setting a distinct feel. Even the dirt you dig through comes in various varieties with one even feeling alive pulsing with spikes offering quite the challenge. To accompany this you also have a memorable soundtrack which is just as addictive as the gameplay. 

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Back to camp to spend the loot

Need a Hand?

The roguelike experience is not for everyone. It can be hard to get into and very grindy for some players. Shovel Knight Dig offers a large array of accessibility features to those that need a little helping hand or just want a more comfortable digging experience. You can adjust various settings from health to damage output. If you’re new to roguelikes this makes for a great jumping-on experience to the genre.

I don’t consider myself an awesome gamer by any means. But I do have absurd amounts of experience of the genre and found the default difficulty of Shovel Knight Dig well balanced. Challenging enough to have you coming back for more, but not too steep that you want to retire from gaming for two weeks and discover a better and more productive hobby like actual gardening.

LadiesGamers Shovel Knight Dig
Throwing a spanner into the works

Conclusion -Digging for Success

Shovel Knight Dig is yet another win for the popular indie icon. A highly enjoyable action roguelike that will keep you busy for a good gaming night or in short bursts. Suitable for gamers of all skill levels thanks to its use of accessibility features. New content is dropped regularly, if not a touch light, but with the game’s addictive gameplay and random generation, I found it hard not to always sneak in another run. Shovel Knight is in the rare comfortable position where his mere presence in a game is a sign of quality. But whether you are a fan of the series or jumping in for the very first time Shovel Knight Dig will not disappoint.

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up

Two thumbs up

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