Yacht Club Games is a relatively new indie development studio who have come to life with the help of Kickstarter. Shovel Knight originally released on PC, 3DS and Wii U after an immensely successful Kickstarter campaign and the game has now made its way to the Playstation platforms. The game is a throwback to the 8-bit era of games, however, it does so in a way that feels fresh and truly nostalgic.

Of course, Shovel Knight offers the cross-buy and cross-save options so if you buy the game on any Playstation platform, you will be able to download it on all three at no extra cost. There are also some small version-specific features which mainly consist of subtleties such as special use of the PS4 light-bar and some hidden easter eggs which can be found using the Vita’s rear touch panel. Cross-save is also present, allowing you to pick up from where you left off on any platform.

The porting to the Playstation platforms has been done fantastically. The game plays as smoothly on any Playstation platform as it does on the PC version and looks just as incredible. The visual art style of the game is obviously intended to look like an 8-bit game, however, the 8-bit sprites, backgrounds and level items all render in 1080p on the PS4 version of the game and look stunning.

Shovel Knight is a platformer and by all accounts is a great one too. As you progress through the game, you earn gold by collecting jewels scattered throughout the levels (watch out for secrets!) and you can use this gold to purchase health and mana upgrades and new items for Shovel Knight to use in his travels. Shovel Knight is very much about correct timing. As the levels become more difficult, it is very likely you will die a number of times. Each time, you learn a little more about the level layout and the correct timing which must be employed in order to traverse a particular obstacle or section of the level.

Level design in Shovel Knight is outstanding. In each level, there are usually multiple paths to choose, one being more financially beneficial than the rest. Ofttimes you may notice something different or strange about a particular wall and upon hitting it, you will find that it is a secret. Shovel Knight has a lot of fun with secrets and trickery throughout its levels, so, you will find yourself needing to replay levels in order to discover everything which is hidden within. Bosses and mini-bosses have also been designed fantastically and are themed to the level in which they are present. Overall, the visual art style and level design in Shovel Knight cannot be faulted.

The control scheme is akin to one you would expect of an 8-bit game. You use the D-PAD or the analogue stick for movement, SQUARE for attacking and X for jumping. Items are mapped to a button combo such as left and SQUARE or up and SQUARE. The GEAR bag opens by pressing down the touchpad on the Dualshock 4. On the Vita and PS3, this is mapped to select. I think the minimalistic control scheme suits Shovel Knight perfectly.

In terms of sound, Shovel Knight impressed me once again. The sound effects perfectly represent the 8-bit platforming era and the music is second to none. As you play through the levels, you will find music sheets which you can then sell to the musician in the village. After selling these to him, he will also play any of them for you at your command. So, if you are buying some items or carrying out some upgrades, you can do it to the melody of your favourite Shovel Knight tune.

Now, on the issue of checkpoints. Some people may feel that the presence of checkpoints in a retro 8-bit game takes away from the nostalgia, so, Yacht Club Games have offered a compromise. If you do not like the idea of checkpoints; you can smash them! Then, they will release a generous helping of gems and will no longer be active. I feel this was a stroke of genius from the developers, allowing more casual players to enjoy the checkpoint system while also catering for the hardcore.

This is not all Shovel Knight has to offer. Yacht Club Games have also announced a large number of additional features and content which will be coming in future FREE updates to Shovel Knight. First, we have Plague of Shadows, a new campaign featuring the character Plague Knight. It will feature new relics, new bosses, new systems and a new story. Yacht Club Games will also be bringing TWO MORE free campaigns to the game in the future, featuring King Knight and Specter Knight.

A challenge mode will also be added to the the game, bringing new challenge levels to the most hardcore of Shovel Knight players. Another feature on the way is a body swap mode, allowing you to switch the gender of whatever characters you wish in the game, complete with new designs for each! Last but not least is a 4 player battle mode which will allow an on-the-couch four-way battle featuring Shovel Knight and his many allies and enemies. Presumably, it will be possible to extend this to an online battle with friends on PS4 using the SharePlay feature.

Overall, Shovel Knight is a no-brainer and a must-play. With the mountain of additional content coming to the game free of charge, Shovel Knight offers probably the best value, most authentic 8-bit platforming experience currently available on the Playstation platforms. I strongly urge you to purchase the game and support this promising new studio! Oh and one more thing… try to find the secret Kratos battle hidden exclusively within the Playstation editions of the game!