Shovel Knight Showdown: Hands-on preview from EVO 2019

Yacht Club Games proved to be a pleasant surprise at EVO 2019, bringing along the latest build for Shovel Knight Showdown. Shacknews couldn't resist, as we went hands-on.


EVO 2019 is in the middle of some of the biggest fighting game tournaments in the world. But the show itself has grown to become something bigger than that. For those looking to take a break from the spectating action, the show is filled with artist alley booths, shops, and yes, game demos. One of the most surprising game demos popped up at the MIX Indie Showcase area, as Yacht Club Games showed up with Shovel Knight Showdown.

Yacht Club Games has been hard at work on Shovel Knight: King of Cards, but they've also been working to turn Shovel Knight Showdown from a minor add-on to a full-blown fighting game. The game has grown by leaps and bounds, offering entire story paths, lore, and multiple game modes. But the most important questing heading into this demo was, how does it play? Shacknews wasted no time in finding out.

Shovel Knight Showdown

Up to four players can jump into Shovel Knight Showdown, full all-out Smash Bros.-style free-for-alls. While the game can be approached as a traditional fighter, this demo offered up a more objective-based mode that tasked players with collecting gems. Collecting a certain number clinches victory. If time runs out, collected gems and KOs are all counted in a final tally screen before determining a winner.

The full Shovel Knight cast is playable here. The titular character, Shield Knight, the entire Order of No Quarter, and even some of the game's minor enemies jump into the fray with their various abilities. Shovel Knight controls just as he does in his main adventure, which should serve beginners well. But getting to try out the various abilities of the Order of No Quarter is the true joy here. All have different play styles, quickly reminding players of the different play styles of Plague Knight and Specter Knight, just to name a few. Controlling the other bosses is a real hoot, as I finally got to take the infuriating Propeller Knight and use his wind gusts and fencing skills to my own advantage.

Each player has four hearts and if any of them are KO'd, they'll drop one of their gems, as one would see in the standard Shovel Knight adventure. Those gems will then be up for grabs. A straightforward brawl would be more than enough to engage players, but Shovel Knight Showdown goes the extra mile with its level design. Stages are pulled from the main Shovel Knight game and all offer their own unique obstacles and gimmicks. The Treasure Knight stage, for example, is filled with dirt piles hovering over treacherous lava. Hitting the destructable terrain makes the round much more dangerous, leading to more KOs. Plague Knight's Explodatorium will fill up with random potions, all of the explosive variety, and can take out any hapless players that they happen to land on. Navigating the stage hazards, while also making use of your melee strikes and secondary abilities is a big key to success in Showdown.

Shovel Knight Showdown

This is only the smallest slice of what Shovel Knight Showdown will have to offer. Yacht Club is looking to make this every bit the full game that Shovel Knight, Plague of Shadows, and Specter of Torment were. If you've missed out on the Shovel Knight phenomenon to this point, fear not, because Yacht Club will collect the full Shovel Knight experience, complete with the new King of Cards campaign and Shovel Knight Showdown, in a single retail package. Originally set for an April 9 release, the retail collection has since been delayed and its final release date has yet to be determined. As for those who invested in Shovel Knight from the very beginning, Shovel Knight Showdown will be available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, and Wii U (yes, remember that Shovel Knight originally released on PS3 and Wii U five years ago) for no extra charge whenever it arrives.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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