I was putting my shovel away to the water, enjoying the regular knockabout fun of a 2D platformer. But then I realized that the fish moved across the water - they could travel wherever it flowed. Perhaps I could do more than just reroute the fish?
Shovel Knight Dig is a new twist on the Duck Tales-inspired game. Like Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon, Dig is a teetering game. From the start, you dig through the ground and rock, collecting gems, fighting baddies, and traveling through different cultures. Classic Driller/Downwell stuff
Dig is a Shovel Knight game and a Yacht Club game, but it''s also a Nitrome game. In the early 2000s, I first encountered the team''s stuff during the Flash/web-game boom, and it was a real success. More importantly, it was distinguished by wild invention and polish.
The classic Nitrome game took a simple concept - what if you could move the screen more than the character, say - and then it did everything you would anticipate with that idea and dozens of things you wouldn''t. Nitrome sounded out possibilities and didn''t move on until an idea was completely flaunted. Overall, these games were fantastic, and they were all spectacular.
(And jeepers, there were a lot of them.) If you''ve ever looked at Shakespeare''s timeline and wondered how he might sabotage Measure for Measure and Othello in the same year, or if it''s a struggle to fix the dishwasher, please take a look at this list of Nitrome games on the studio''s Wikipedia page. It''s all pretty humbling.
Shovel Knight Dig is a game based on the fact that you can bounce on your shovel once again, and the extended cast of knights, and then the general tone of retro fun, and while it always feels like Yacht Club, it is based on something that often feels like classic Nitrome in a way that I hadn''t previously.
Because Shovel Knight Dig is carefully procedural. Each time you go into the adventure, the levels are the same, and the level order is the same, and the selections are kind of the same, because the material you encounter within the levels is completely altered. So Secret Fountain always has the water, but it doesn''t always have the water wheels. Maybe you''ll dig through a minefield. Maybe tiny things will allow you to explore new areas.
All of the themed areas offer something different, including the industrial lava one, and the sort of grim one that followed it - but they all break down into a slew of levels, with a choice in between where you go next. These choices are sometimes locked off, which means you must find keys. Also, if you collect three cogs within each level, you can unlock a special chest that refills your health or gives you a treat.
Unlike relics and accessories, there are new abilities to learn, new weapons to learn, and new armour, and new things that give you freedom of expression. As you travel to some areas, you may be required to unlock new items, which you''ll then get to elsewhere, and pay to unlock fast travel. Every time you return there are people standing past to chat. And a good owl.
I''m getting at this game because it''s made of stuff. And that''s why Shovel Knight Dig strives to stay honest about what you miss as much as you see in each run. Because you''re moving downwards - chugging through the earth and also jumping between platforms - there may be things you pass that you just can''t afford, especially when things you''re thinking is not. I''ll check that out next time, but because it does, I''ll check it out when the game decide
Because of your choices, you choose this path so the other path can''t be taken immediately, or you choose the cog, which means that the new power-up will have to wait. Nitrome has been serving up for over two decades.
Dig is a little bit more special. If you like Yacht Club but don''t know Nitrome yet, you''re about to fall in love again. Together these teams have made something absolutely luminous. Hark! The endless invention, the colour, the sense of fun.