If you’re a fan of retro inspired games, then by now you have already heard of indie darling, Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games. The successfully Kickstarted game that made it’s way to the Nintendo 3DS and other platforms was a runaway hit. Paying homage to early classics like Megaman and Ducktales, it quickly rose to the top of many must play lists as well as best games lists a few years ago.
Thankfully due to that Kickstarter, DLC was managed to be funded to keep supporting the game and it’s wonderful cast of characters. Last year we saw the return of Plague Knight and learned his tale as a wiley alchemist who had a pretty tricky moveset that required lightning fast time with the use of his potion bombs that propelled him through the maps. I personally found that campaign a bit too difficult for my impatient hands but managed to get through it after much frustration.
Quite the opposite has come with the release of a new campaign that focuses on a more serious knight, Specter. Armed with a scythe, a homing dash attack (similar to Sonic’s homing dash attack) and the ability to wall climb (like Strider or Shinobi), and you have a much easier playthrough this time around once you get a hang of the dash attack. Granted the levels are geared to provide more of a challenge for you and his moves but it’s quite forgiving when you can latch on to a wall, run up and jump again. The ability to continuously dash attack helps you stay in the air and with perfect timing, allows you to defeat enemies without getting a scratch.
This unique style of playing makes for a much more fast paced game, one which I feel will be geared towards speedrunners of all sorts. It’s always fun to defeat many of the same enemy bosses again in different ways. Though not in the same way you remembered. To give an example, early on you tend to fight the Black Knight as you recall from previous campaign encounters. Only this time he has a spiked steed of the Rhino variety that he charges, launches off of and double teams you with. Many of these fights are programmed to be more vertically challenged; in effect making use of your newfound abilities as this agile reaper.
The story itself, which I won’t spoil if you’re a fan of the Shovel lore, is as always touching and though a bit on the darker side, and adds another point of view to the already expansive and growing story of Shovel Knight. Scripted as a prequel to the entire game thus far, you’re tasked by the Enchantress (your main antagonist from the original) to recruit the other knights to join her order. Basically another reason to return to those same maps as before and fight all those bosses again. But in a nicely added twist, there is also some flashback moments that dive deeper into Specter Knight’s past and why he is the way he is and doing what he’s doing. These little vignette levels are sepia toned and give you more insight as well as use a slightly modified move set. They’re a really nice touch and add more to an already hefty DLC.
There’s a new “lobby area” of course, from Specter Knight’s roosting area and new collectibles to…collect. Red Skulls, Wisp chests, and treasure are hidden throughout each level/land. Red Skulls are used as currency to buy your way to an area to collect a new ability or weapon much like the previous campaigns. There’s also a character that will tell you where to find Wisps (which grow your Will/HP and Darkness/MP) or if you missed them, just to outright buy them from her. There’s also new armor to don, or in his case cloaks giving new abilities making it even easier to play through with. And even another character to power up your already collected “Curios” abilities which at some points can make you more OP than they already make you. Of course many familiar characters pop up, and some in unexpected ways. To top it off, we once again get a remixed score by the fantastic chiptune composer Jake Kaufman.
The campaign also comes with new sets of Feats (a form of achievments),Challenges and Game + mode as well as a Boss mode to retake on all the Order of No Quarter. Further enhancing your experience of the game. The ability to play co-op returns on the Switch, and given that the game really only requires the use of two buttons, is easy to pop off anywhere you are to play with your mates. Amiibo compatibility follows through too. All in all, the expansion is roughly the the length of the original Shovel Knight, now aptly titled, Shovel of Hope.
Suffice to say if you’re a fan of the original, you owe it to yourself to play it. It already comes with your purchase of Shovel Knight as it is. For those of you who have held off from buying and playing this series, the game now comes in the form of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove which includes Plague Knight’s campaign as well. While it’s an early release for the Switch, the game will update by April for all other platforms.
With the release of Specter Knight that only leaves King Knight. It will be interesting to see what they’ll do with him that they haven’t cornered already with the other knights. There’s only so much mileage you can get from the same bosses and maps and I feel we’re reaching that limit. But they keep surprising me with the way they have customized the maps and bosses to fit each new character. In the meantime, for shovelry!