Shovel Knight Dig: First hands-on preview from PAX West 2019

Shacknews goes subterranean as we go hands-on with Yacht Club and Nitrome's upcoming collaboration, Shovel Knight Dig, for the first time at PAX West.


Shovel Knight has been digging strong for over five years, putting Yacht Club Games among the cream of the indie development crop. But while the original Shovel Knight package is set to be completed in December, the heroic warrior isn't ready to sheathe his shovel just yet. Earlier this week, Yacht Club announced a special collaboration with Nitrome that put Shovel Knight in the starring role of an all-new side story called Shovel Knight Dig.

Shovel Knight Dig takes the title character into a new frontier: 16-bit pixel graphics. Players will dig through the ends of the earth in pursuit of the thieving Drill Knight, who has absconded with Shovel Knight's treasures. Shacknews picks up the chase at PAX West, going hands-on with Shovel Knight's new adventure for the first time.

Shovel Knight Dig - PAX West

Shovel Knight Dig is far less side-scrolling than Yacht Club's original retro throwback. This is more about going down as far as Shovel Knight's trusty tool can take him. As such, there are some changes to the series' core combat. Whenever Shovel Knight jumps, he'll automatically go into his downward stab, which is still good for taking out enemies, such as rats, or bouncing on mushrooms. But jumping is only a small part of the formula. As the title implies, this is all about digging.

Hitting down and the attack button (Y on the Nintendo Switch) will cause Shovel Knight to dig through piles of dirt. He can dig down or to the side, collecting any gems he can find along the way. He'll meet a lot of resistance on top of the lower-level rats and such. Drill Knight has massive machines that can cut across or downward and players need to move quickly in order to escape their path. These mechanical bruisers hit hard, able to deal two hearts' worth of damage in one blow. That leads to one interesting element from this playthrough. There were no checkpoints at any point during the demo. Though there are multiple sections of the first level, including a final boss fight with Spore Knight, dying meant starting over from scratch. Whether the final game will operate without checkpoints remains to be seen.

With no checkpoints, staying alive proved more essential than ever in this demo. Fortunately, finding collectible golden cogs made things a little easier. Finding three cogs in each section of the level would give Shovel Knight a boost at that section's conclusion, including a health boost. Players can also find chests housing lovable shopkeeper Chester, who will offer permanent player upgrades. Though it should be noted that while gems are plentiful, items are awfully pricey. Chester's upped his prices quite a bit here.

So far, Shovel Knight Dig feels like a blast to play, with buttery smooth digging mechanics. The central motif of gem collection and treasure recovery adds a fun score-chasing element, while the enemies and digging machines make progressing through levels delightfully frantic. While there didn't look to be much difference in our playthroughs, Yacht Club noted in the original announcement that the game will utilize proprietary level generation to create a fresh experience for each session.

This is just a small sample of what Yacht Club will look to offer with this upcoming effort. More knights and more environments are expected to be revealed in the months ahead. Shovel Knight Dig is coming soon to PC and consoles.

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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