Shovel Knight Dig has the heart of the original with fun differences making it stand out as its own game.
Shovel Knight has become an indie phenomenon since its original release in 2014. Since then, players have received numerous free expansions for the title with more still to come with King of Cards and Shovel Knight Showdown. However, Yacht Club Games, with the help of Nitrome, are creating a new title for the franchise: Shovel Knight Dig. While Yacht Club is very transparent that the game is in its early stages of development, I loved my experience playing Shovel Knight Dig PAX West. Honestly, I could see myself liking this game more than the original.
In Shovel Knight Dig, our titular hero ventures after Drill Knight once the villain destroys his campsite and steals his treasures. Instead of platforming your way through each stage, you will be (as the name implies) digging. Each stage is split into three sections that finish off with a boss fight. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, Dig feels like a vertical version of Shovel Knight. As I dug my way down the Mushroom Mines I found instant satisfaction in it. Digging feels good and the animation of Shovel Knight as he digs about reflects that. When progressing through a stage you will naturally run into enemies that take returning players back to the old combat system of the original by slashing and bouncing on enemies, all in good fashion.
Enemies are not the only threat to deal with. With Drill Knight being the big bad, Shovel Knight needs to maneuver around oncoming drills that can do harm and change the stage at the same time. At times there will be openings on the sides of the stage that players can enter normally leading to a shop of some sort. I ran into a merchant that I believe to be a badger, which is clever since the game takes place in tunnels.
Most of the items are primarily of the healing type, but there is a variety of things that can be purchased. I also found Chester who is known for popping out of giant blue chests in Shovel Knight trying to sell his wears.
As a side objective for every stage, you can find collectible gears. In each of the three sections are three gears to find that are procedurally generated. At the end of every portion of a stage a capsule falls and if all three gears are collected it will open up showering the player with rewards including gems and food. If only one or two gears are found don’t fret, rewards will still be given.
At the end of Mushroom Mines, I fought Spore Knight which is more or less a boss battle you would find in Shovel Knight. Trying to predict their movements and retaliate when they’re open. When I reached the end of the demo, I was sad because I didn’t want to stop playing. With Shovel Knight, I was only able to play so much at a time before needing to take a break because, in reality, I’m not great at it — but Dig is different. It is more straightforward and approachable to a wider audience. From what I played, I’m expecting to enjoy this game a lot more than its predecessor.
My time with Shovel Knight Dig was short, but a great time nonetheless. The demo that I played was running on Nintendo Switch, but as of now, there is no official announcement regarding what platforms the game will launch on. While it seems that Shovel Knight Dig won’t be out anytime soon I cannot wait to get my hands on it to see how it turns out.