Shovel Knight has proven to be one of those games that really just doesn't age. It's hard to believe that the title's been out for a few years now, but the retro visuals, outstanding music and challenging yet addictive gameplay allows it to hold up as time passes. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is the definitive version of this title to date as it pulls the first three games into a single package for the newly released Nintendo Switch, and the end result is as much fun as ever.
Of course, things kick off with Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope. This is the game that kicked the series off, and frankly I don't want to spend a ton of time on this particular title. In part because it is well-covered territory. The game released in 2014 and we've covered it several times here at Chalgyr's Game Room (PC - check, Xbox One - check, PS4 - check, and Vita? - check). With different reviewers on different platforms, we all found ourselves enjoying the ridiculously fun adventures of Shovel Knight as he aims to defeat The Enchantress and her Order of No Quarter.
Shovel Knight is a glorious combination of platforming and melee combat that calls back to games with pogo-style attacks (Adventures of Link, DuckTales, etc) that challenges the player, but always feels fair. The game teaches you precision and through trial and error, you get better at the game - just like we did with classic action fare on the NES.
So let's talk then about Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows. This expansion of the original game has us using Plague Knight in an all-new adventure. The emphasis on old school visuals and platforming hold true, but kudos to the Yacht Club Games team for taking their formula (pun intended) and mixing things up using this alchemist. The crafting system gives a new spin on loot collection, and the different recipes learned along the way create a completely different sense of progression from its predecessor.
However, of the three titles, Plague of Shadows is my least favorite for a few reasons. For one, the pacing is less consistent with this game. Having to stop and mix things on the go is an interesting idea, but its done with enough frequency that the game struggles to find and maintain any sort of consistent action. Plague Knight is also a bit of a wuss if I'm being honest, and that makes the difficulty here unforgiving when compared to the other two Shovel Knight titles. The gameplay and overall aesthetic are still spot on, and fans of Shovel Knight will undoubtedly find value in Plague Knight's adventures (though the story here is also the thinnest of the three and easily the least engaging), but it is the weakest entry to the series.
Now we get the new and shiny Specter of Torment. Here you assume the role of Specter Knight in a prequel to Shovel Knight. The main differentiation here comes in the form of Specter Knight's midair movements. There are a variety of objects and monsters that show an angular mark as you jump towards them. Slash at the right time, and Specter Knight will either launch further into the air (think of it as a precision double jump) or angle down sharply to attack your opponent. The first boss fight does a great job of illustrating the combat potential as you bounce up and off of a wall and then repeatedly slash downward in a devastating attack. Stringing these slashes together is rewarding, and more in-line with the pacing of the original Shovel Knight offering.
You can purchase additional skills through Curios - subweapons that each have their time and place, though some (the claw was my most frequently used) are more beneficial than others. Admittedly some of the bosses are more aggravating than others, because while the stages and boss battles are basically remixes of what we have already seen, Specter Knight is pretty squishy at times and allows for less room for error. Still, due to Specter Knight's unusual movements - especially while being airborne - the familiar stages and bosses actually tend to play out very differently. The stage design here is, once again, just about perfect.
The Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove edition of the series offers up three solid offerings, with the original Shovel Knight and the nearly as good and newly introduced Specter of Torment both providing standout platforming/action experiences. With so few offerings on the Switch right now, there is little reason not to invest in Shovel Knight's latest offering.
Yacht Club Games
Yacht Club Games
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Article by Nick