Shovel Knight Showdown Review – A Surprisingly Enjoyable Brawler

    Title: Shovel Knight Showdown
    Developer: Yacht Club Games
    Release Date: December 10, 2019
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Yacht Club Games
    Genre: Brawler

Yacht Club Games is back with another addition to their Shovel Knight line of games with a new multiplayer brawler, Shovel Knight Showdown. Initially, I was concerned that this game would be a simple spin-off cashing in on the popularity of an IP. However, what I found throughout reviewing this game was a very competent multiplayer brawler made with a lot of care and attention by its developer.

Shovel Knight Showdown is a polished game that stands on its own and has a lot to offer loyal fans of the series, the genre as a whole, and others like me that enjoy a well-made game. Immediately, I noticed the controls for Shovel Knight Showdown are very tight and responsive, with a simplicity that made it very easy to dive right in. I have never played a Shovel Knight game, but the controls were intuitive, and I could pick up a controller and start playing without any prior knowledge.

For those who prefer a more complex brawler experience, there is still a fair degree of complexity and depth despite the simple controls. Features like unique playable characters, stages with various hazards, and a decent number of unique items add variety and strategy to the game. In particular, the distinctive styles of the playable characters add a great deal of replayability to the game.

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There are 16 playable characters in Shovel Knight Showdown, each with their unique playstyle. While there are primary jump and parry moves, these separate playstyles are illustrated, with each character having their types of basic and special attacks. Most of the character differences are centered on mobility – some are more mobile with the ability to dash and dodge, some can manipulate the movement of opposing characters, and others are more projectile-heavy. There was a lot more variety than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of options I had for a game that seemed simple at first glance.

That being said, while I found the strategy involved in some characters’ mechanics to be more interesting than others, there seemed to be a strength imbalance where some characters were stronger or more useful. For example, Shovel Knight appears to have a limited move set compared to other characters that have multiple ways to attack and move around, which unfortunately makes the titular character seem rather bland and weak. Of course, as I mentioned before, I am not as well experienced as others in games of this genre, so it could very well be that I lack the skill to bring out the best in that character.

Shovel Knight Showdown 1

The stages in Shovel Knight Showdown are, for the most part, fun and unique. I enjoyed the artistic design, but I most appreciated the creativity in the different layouts and hazards that made the game more engaging and challenging. As you progress through the game, you must overcome hazards or mechanical additions unique to the level, such as platforms that break underneath you, platforms that allow you to bounce and jump higher, a giant fish that shoots projectiles all over the stage, and more. However, like with the characters, there were stages that I think weren’t as enjoyable as others, some even bordering on frustratingly demanding with having to dodge not only other players but extra stage obstacles as well.

Shovel Knight Showdown also features little details that make me appreciate the game more and added to giving the game a complete finish. The game offers cheat codes that allow you to temporarily or permanently unlock everything, a nice touch for those that want to dive right into the multiplayer without worrying about the tediousness of unlocking a bunch of content. The game also offers a practice mode that allows you to try out different characters.

This mode also contains one particularly neat feature that allows you to quickly swap what character you are trying out via a popup menu, so you don’t have to keep going back to the character select menu to try different characters. The game also has a ton of unlockable content such as character skins and maps while also providing you with a decent amount to start with. The single-player story allows the player to unlock new characters while playing through their storyline. This makes each run as rewarding as it is unique and fun.

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Shovel Knight Showdown is a great game that should please both fans of the series and those jumping into the world of Shovel Knight for the first time. The sheer amount of content in the game makes it feel complete when it could’ve easily pitfalled into a gimmicky spin-off.

The story mode for each character is an enjoyable experience for those who prefer to play their games solo, while the multiplayer battle mode offers a lot of depth for those who care more about playing multiplayer with friends. The amount of care and attention put into this game is enough to warrant people checking it out, and regardless of how people feel about Shovel Knight or games of this genre, I think it’s worth a consideration.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brian Lee

Production Editor and Co-host of the Noisy Pixel Podcast - Professional goof and overall video game junkie. Brian [at] noisypixel [dot] net