Yacht Club Games is an indie development house which carries a moniker that brings to mind country clubs, well-to-dos, and sweaters tied around shoulders, but its Captain, Sean Velasco, doesn’t look the part. Decked out in a hoodie, face-framing glasses, and semi-wild hair, he looks very much like an indie rocker star. He is.
Velasco and his Yacht Club Games crew are talented individuals with a track record that features Double Dragon Neon, A Boy and His Blob (remake), Contra 4, and other titles which feature old school charm merged with contemporary design sensibilities.
The company’s debut game, Shovel Knight, sees you controlling the eponymous hero as he tackles enemies with his ShovelBlade. That’s an even odder name for a weapon than “gunblade,” but it demonstrates Yacht Club Games’ sense of humor and the game’s major gameplay mechanic.
“You can dig through the dirt, flip things over, and fight with it. It’s very retro,” said Velasco. “We’re fans of Mega Man, Castlevania, Zelda II. You can see the influences.”
Indeed. Upon touching the controller, one gets a sense that Shovel Knight could have been ripped from 1988 with its 8-bit aesthetic and strong platforming gameplay. Like those games from yesteryear, ShovelKnight has a simple control scheme that let me leap, attack, and break terrain with ease using the ShovelBlade, as well as hurl special attacks at bosses. Smart level design choices include a few intriguing red herring traps and platforming challenges that demand you smartly use the ShovelBlade. It’s challenging, but not “Nintendo Hard.”
And refreshing. In an industry dominated by space marines, warring soldiers, and annual sports releases, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a title as retro-quirky as Shovel Knight. Velasco knows this. He started Yacht Club Games as a way to get away from licensed properties, which is something upon which WayForward built a reputation.
“If the right license came, we’d take it,” said Velasco. “But we’re focused on doing original products. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to do Yacht Club, so we can focus on original IPs.”
And what’s behind the name Yacht Club Games?
“We (the team members) are all in the same boat,” said Velasco. “Especially if the Kickstarter doesn’t fund (laughs). It’s playfully arrogant, the total opposite of what we are.”
Shovel Knight will be available on PC, Wii U, and 3DS.