Oh what a knight
"Are you sure Rocket Knight Adventures isn't responsible?" Said Sean Velasco of Yacht Club Games, his vocal tone shifting to a higher, more humble tone. I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, so I explained to him.
Ever since Shovel Knight, the game he co-created with the rest of the Yacht Club founders, became a hit in 2022, we've seen a huge influx of indie games with the word "knight" in their names: Hollow Knight, Gryphon Knight, Portal Knights, Knights and Bikes, Knight Simulator, Fight Knight, Knight Club, Type Knight, Knight Club, Knight Terrors and Knights are just a few of the best known examples.
It's a trend that contrasts sharply with all the early "War" (God of, Gears of, World at, Total) and "Dead" (Never, Rising, Redemption, Walking, Left 4, Island, or Alive) games. of the 2022s. The game is no longer so difficult to prove that it is "not for children". Levity, altruism and sincere kindness are back in fashion, and I think Shovel Knight has contributed to that.
If you agree, you'll be happy to hear that the next two games (or is it three?) that should include Shovel Knight will work to keep this trend going in every way.
The most recently announced Shovel Knight title is Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon and it is unlike any other game in the series so far. It has some things in common with Joustus, the card game from Shovel Knight: King of Cards, although it's much more action-packed. You are constantly killing enemies in Pocket Dungeon. It's an adorable bloodbath, which is quite a change of pace for the blue burrower, who only needs to kill an enemy to continue every few minutes at most in Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope.
In fact, Pocket Dungeon started out as an entirely different game called Pocket Knights. The Yacht Club was working on Joustus when they found out, so they had puzzle games in mind. They reached out to the developer and asked what they thought of turning it into a Shovel Knight game. They wanted to participate, and now that it's "about ten times bigger than before," both parties are confident about how the collaboration is shaping up.
That said, it's not always easy to communicate what makes the game fun with just videos and screenshots. This is a common problem with puzzle games that are more about feel than looks. At first, it can be hard to tell what's going on, as enemies appear to be falling from the sky, but are actually filling a room from behind. Your goal is to keep killing the monsters before they bury you, collect the key once it's dropped, then unlock the door to move on to the next stage. Along the way, you can choose to unlock optional stores where you can spend gems on items to help keep you alive, which is always a concern because every time you damage a standard enemy, you're also injured.
It's a combat system that will feel familiar to fans of classic Fairune, Witch and Hero or Ys games, but it may feel punishing to some at first. The fear of death is a big motivator though, and the goal the game constantly pushes you towards is combos.
Let's say there's a skeleton you want to assassinate. If you take it alone, it will probably take three of your hit points before it's dead. It's not the best use of your precious life. If you instead wait until that skeleton hits one or more skeletons, killing just one will end them all, sparing you tons of life. Still, no matter how big your combo is, you should probably run around and grab a life-filling potion after the fight is over, lest you get killed in your next battle.
Killing enemies, dashing for potions, assessing the screen for combo opportunities, then killing more enemies sums up the flow of the game. This flow is interrupted in part by giant enemies like dragons and gryphons ( both of which will be familiar faces to those who have played past Shovel Knight games) and, of course, boss battles with new and old Shovel Knight rivals.
Many of these bosses will also end up being playable characters with their own ways of attacking and defending. For example, Specter Knight takes damage from life-giving potions (because he's dead), so he'll have to recover his hit points through other methods. Flipping the script on how to fight and heal keeps these extra characters fresh, especially in two-player Vs. mode, where examining the best match can make all the difference.
The next step up is Shovel Knight Dig, which unlike Pocket Dungeon, was a Shovel Knight game from the start. If that sounds like a "NES-to-SNES" leap from Shovel Knight, sharing a lot of the same mechanics as the original, but with much more detailed graphics and with everything moving at a much faster pace. The name "Dig" comes from the fact that you have to constantly dig to survive.
Like it or not, this game is a speedrun, with the best prizes for those who can get to the bottom quickly, and the worst deaths (this time by a rotating drill) awaiting those who are too slow. It actually sounds like Super Meat Boy Forever, another sequel to a now-classic indie title that always keeps you moving, rushing through stages made from handcrafted level design bits.
Last on our list is Cyber Shadow, the indie that took over publishing last year. The game is going very well. At this point, he feels as polite as he can get, and if all goes to plan, he should be out sooner rather than later. Compared to last year's demo, I was impressed with how many different enemies the game pits you against at once. They all have very different attacks, forcing you to change your combat strategy on the fly all the time.
We also know that the game is getting Shovel Knight amiibo support, and that Shovel, Plague, Ghost, and Knight King fairies are confirmed. Hopefully you can battle them as well, much like the amiibo feature in Azure Striker Gunvolt 2. That would be quite a challenge, even for a ninja robot that has a Gradius-style shield system, a flaming sword, and the most deadly throwing stars.
After announcing that they are publishing games and developing them, the Yacht Club has been inundated with pitches from various indie developers, via email and in person. If you've seen the "Locations, Man, Locations" sketch on Chappelle's Show (minus the $12 million, of course), then you've got some idea of the current life for them.
Sean told us the attention made him feel "...very flattered, but I think we'll be at full capacity soon. We've got a lot in the oven right now. In fact, very flattered is the word I used to describe everything where we are in 2022. We're flattered that we were able to help usher in this trend of knight games, and also kinder, lighter games in general."
“We are also flattered that so many developers have turned to us for advice and asked for our help with the release. We're just flattered everywhere, and we're going to do our best not to take all the kindness and praise we've received for granted. We're busier than ever, and our goal is still the same, to create games that will capture your imagination and make you happy. "
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