Shovel knight is a game that was created as a modern day call-back to classic retro platformers and tells a story about a character called Shovel Knight on a quest to rescue his partner, Shield Knight from an Enchantress and a group of themed knights which forms the emotional crux of the story, as the story demonstrates towards the finale that Shovel knight is not as good a good a hero and is, in fact at somewhat of a loose end without her. The themed knights also serve as the game’s bosses for the end of each level.
I particularly enjoyed Shovel knight for it’s retro, 8-bit aesthetic that didn’t feel out-dated as it had an upgraded polish and more colour variety, thanks to modern technology. The characters are also charming and occasionally funny due to inventive and unique character designs such as a knight who’s armour is based on a deep-sea diver’s uniform and has a Mortal Kombat-style grappling-anchor as a weapon. As a result I really looked forward to each boss-fight, and also because each boss-battle was different and offered a unique challenge.
The gameplay was very much based on retro games from the 80’s, so it attracts gamers who played the video-games that were released back then, but, thanks to updated controls, it is also accessible to more modern, current-gen gamers. You make your way through the variety of levels by using your shovel-based weapon to slice and jump on your opponents Mario-style, and also to bypass obstacles to find hidden Treasure chests containing music papers to unlock tracks in the soundtrack you can listen to whenever you want in the hub-village, and different weapons and abilities, such as a pair of gauntlets that let you destroy breakable objects faster. These are especially useful, as with them, you can access secrets that you couldn’t before.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic’s graphics have usually been very bright and colourful, using mostly primary yellows, blues and greens. This, combined with the fast-paced and cheerful music gives the game a great sense of energy, which really compliments the gameplay. Each level’s backgrounds give the game a real sense of depth, for example, in Casino night zone, the background gives you the feeling you’re in a brightly lit, Las Vegas-style city at night, when really you’re simply playing on a 2D plane. It doesn’t seem like a pixel is wasted.
The game’s characters have entertaining and colourful designs that fit their respective play-styles. For example, since Tails is more air and flight-based, his character has 2 tails that let him fly and hover for a short time. The titular villain Dr Robotnik ( or Dr Eggman) has an inventive futuristic, mad-scientist aesthetic, complimented by the fun, animal-inspired designs of the non-boss and boss enemy robots ( He even has a futuristic air-craft with a high-tech wrecking ball under it!) . These make each encounter fun and put a different spin on each boss-battle at the end of each level.
The various levels in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 are very fast-paced and fun to play, thanks to the extreme speed of the protagonist and his quick dodging and bouncing skills, which he will use to defeat minor enemies and boss-enemies. With Tails, the levels have a verticality to them and so have secrets and hidden rings (points) that you can only discover using Tail’s flight ability.
Each level, much like Shovel Knight, ends with a boss-battle, in this case, most likely Dr Robotnik. These boss-battles each test your game-skill in different ways, like dodging trails of flames fired out of a lava machine and hitting it at the right time. The way that Dr Robotnik always has a new robot for each level ending give the bosses a new twist every time so that they don’t feel so same-y, and so you look forward to every one.
Wario Land: The Shake Dimension
Wario-land uses a bright and colourful hand-drawn and hand-animated 2D art-style for it’s environments and characters, giving the game an almost anime/cartoon style that is very entertaining to look at and play through. The backgrounds keep that same hand-drawn feel and these, combined with the well animated NPCs (Non Player Characters) make you feel as though you’re playing within a Studio Ghibli or Disney production, and one that’s entertaining to look at, at that!
Every character is animated in such a way that they feel like they were animated in a 2D digital stop-motion fashion which gives the same impression as a game with animated pixels and sprites but still keeps that cartoon-ish art-style. This was a clever way of making the game stand out from among other Nintendo titles and gives the game a definite charm while playing it.
In a fashion similar to Super Mario Bros, you play through a certain amount of “worlds” (5 in this case) by playing the world’s levels and facing a boss at the final level of each world. Each level has it’s own secrets and treasures to unlock, which require you to use the game’s controls in creative ways to obtain them.
The game’s subtitle “The Shake dimension” is a reference to the fact that Wario can pick up enemies and certain objects in the game and shake them until loot falls out of them. You do this for health and extra coins, and for, every now and again, progressing in a level by activating switches using a ground-pound attack by shaking the Wii-remote and using a shoulder-charge attack.
At the end of each world, you’ll face a unique and challenging boss enemy that tests whatever new abilities you’ve learned in the world’s levels, for example, a giant Aztec-inspired robot or a race-car driving daredevil you fight in an upgraded unicycle! Each boss-battle makes for a rewarding and fun challenge, especially when you defeat a boss with all the level’s extra achievements completed.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Unlike the other games that I’ve mentioned, Zelda ALTTP does not have you play it from a 2D perspective. Instead, it situates the camera top-down, so you can explore the vast world that Nintendo has created. However, much like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Shovel Knight, the game has a bouncy, bright Sprite/pixel aesthetic, and this charm gives the game a euphoric feeling throughout gameplay.
Because Nintendo only had limited console power to run all of the game’s pixels, not once piece of the environment feels out of place and a majority of the objects are interactive, leading to new dungeons and secret items.
The design of the characters make each NPC and playable character feel as though they’re part of a lived in world and yet also really help give the vibe of a Japan-style fantasy tale. Because every object and NPC has a reason for being where it is, nearly every character you come across has their own problems and small, contained story to tell and brings the world to life even more because of it.
As I said before, the story takes place in a large world full of secrets, dungeons and quests. These, you access through different abilities and items, such as a grappling hook which you can use to get through a dungeon full of pitfalls that you couldn’t get past on your own.
Every dungeon and quest leads to a multitude of rewards and treasures and are ultimately, usually completed by defeating a boss-enemy at the end. Each of these offer the challenge of using a well-timed sword swing or use of an ability to defeat (ala the Dark Souls series) and make for a great way to test out your items.
Interacting with the assortment of environments is necessary to discover hidden secrets and Easter eggs (an inside joke or hidden feature in the game-world), such as a chicken where, if you hit it enough times, a whole flock of chickens will fly in from off-screen and attack you!