Shovel Pirate review
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Shovel Pirate review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on March 5th, 2024
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: DIG IT
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This charming platformer keeps things simple and straightforward.

Developer: Neutronized

Price: Free
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

As the App Store gets increasingly overloaded with live service titles, ever ambitious gacha games, and bulky console/PC ports, its nice when something comes out and embraces a small, mobile-focused scope and sticks to it. Shovel Pirateis exactly this kind of game, and it's a refreshingly short, reasonable, and charming puzzle-platformer.

Quest for booty

In Shovel Pirate, you play as a naked, blob-like pirate armed with nothing but a shovel. Your goal is to traverse levels and dig up diamonds and other treasures hiding undergound, while being careful to avoid snakes, baseball-throwing monkeys, traps, and other hazards.

The game has a simple control scheme with virtual buttons that lets you move, jump, and dig at will and climb ladders, activate trap doors, or destroy obstacles when you are near any of those level features. In each of the game's 15 levels, your ultimate goal is to find three diamonds (and a bonus collectible) before hitting a flag pole with your shovel to move on to the next challenge.

Simple surprises

The beauty of Shovel Pirate is how clever it can get with its simple setup. You never know what you might dig up under a mound of sand and--even if its a new enemy--maybe instead of bashing it with your shovel it could be useful for setting off a nearby trap so you don't have to take the hit.

This kind of ingenuity isn't required for most of the game if you just want to make your way through it, though the satisfaction of figuring these kinds of things out and pulling them off are a fun reward. The result of this design makes Shovel Pirate delight to play without creating friction or challenge that leaves you retrying levels repeatedly.

Pay to finish

Shovel Pirate is a free game with no ads, but it does have a paywall of $ 1.99 to unlock all the levels. The curious thing about this paywall though is that it comes pretty deep into the game. I don't quite remember off the top of my head, but I think you can play nearly half of it before being asked to pony up for the whole game.

This is surprisingly reasonable and gives players more than enough time with the game to decide if they enjoy what it has to offer enough to pay a couple of bucks for it. Without just being completely free, I'm hard-pressed to think of a game that has had a more generous free-to-start model.

The bottom line

Shovel Pirate is definitely not a super meaty or deep experience, but it's really not trying to be that either. It offers some simple platforming fun that is all very colorful and charming that you can enjoy a large portion of without paying a dime.

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