Shovel Knight’s latest adventure not only gave the series a new look and a new sound, but it also ventured into a new game genre and debuted on a new platform.
On mobile, it is available exclusively on Apple Arcade for the first time, but you can also get the game on Nintendo Switch and Steam.
For this review, I played the game on an iPad Air (4th Gen) paired with a PlayStation 4 controller. The game can be played with a touch screen either with on-screen buttons or swipe controls, but using an actual game controller is the best way to go.
Shovel Knight Dig by Yacht Club Games is a rogue-lite starring the short, horned, shovel-wielding hero. The story begins with the theft of Shovel Knight’s bag of treasures by Drill Knight and his gang of knights known as the Hexcavators.
It is up to Shovel Knight to dig his way down to Drill Knight’s castle, defeat some if not all of the five other Hexcavators on the way, and take back what was rightfully his.
Being a rogue-lite, the game is all about going through the procedurally generated gauntlet of hazards and enemies over and over again until success is achieved.
You won’t reach the end until either you get good enough, lucky enough, powerful enough, or most probably all three.
In Shovel Knight Dig, the gauntlet is full of challenging enemies and puzzles.
Like any rogue-lite, the game starts frustrating as there is a lot to learn and discover. Most of my deaths in the first dozen or so playthroughs are just me trying to understand the language of the game. For example, how to handle certain enemies, what certain icons mean, and what certain artefacts and abilities do.
Unlike most rogue-lites, Shovel Knight Dig relies heavily on the player’s skill and luck. I feel that upgrades sold at the shops on the surface add variety but not power to the gameplay.
That means every attempt to get to Drill Knight is different and there is almost no feeling of progression unless you get good at the game.
What made me keep coming back to Shovel Knight Dig is all the secrets. There’s a lot to unlock when spelunking into the depth of the giant hole the Hexcavators left behind.
Secrets range from breakable walls to hidden armour templates spread through the levels. Because the levels are randomly generated and there are branching paths, luck needs to be on your side for everything to align to unlock certain hidden surprises.
The game’s new high-colour pixel graphics and music looks and sounds stand out. It still pays homage to the 8-bit style graphics and sounds of the original, but modern. I like how it doesn’t look and feel cut and paste like a lot of mobile games.
I could not put the game down and within three days from the launch of Shovel Knight Dig, I defeated Drill knight. It was our second encounter.
Even then I continue to play the game as there is a lot to unlock. I still haven’t found all of the armour templates and haven’t fought Scrap Knight.
If you are looking for a game you can keep coming back and get good at, that will challenge your skills and has plenty to explore, try out Shovel Knight Dig.
If you are looking for something similar but even more challenging and you are on Apple Arcade, try Exit The Gungeon.