I think I’ve played more hours of Shovel Knight than any actual 8-bit game, short of maybe the original Mario Brothers. And I loved almost every minute.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove gave me more ways to play the game I’ve already played to death. It’s a collection of all the existing Shovel Knight content (minus any platform exclusives) and threw them all together and then added more content. They also promised more in the near future, to top it off. The game features the original Shovel Knight campaign called “Shovel of Hope”, where you play as the titular hero. Two additional campaigns are part of the overall package.
2015’s “Plague of Shadows” expansion is here, where you can sling your way through remixed areas, bosses, and some new challenges as “Plague Knight.” A brand campaign acting as a prequel to “Shovel of Hope” is called “Specter of Torment,” and is an exclusive to the Switch until April. Like Plague of Shadows, you’ll tackle re-imagined levels as the new playable character, “Specter Knight.” New weapons, climbing abilities, and other traversal mechanics are offered by each expansion and are unique to both characters, and the Switch also offers bonuses for those who own the Shovel Knight Amiibo.
There is an additional campaign coming soon, currently (and probably tentatively) titled “King Knight’s Campaign”, where another playable character, “King Knight”, will be introduced. There will also be another update containing a “Battle Mode” at some point in the future. Both updates will be free to those who buy the Treasure Trove version of the game.
All of the new additions add to the already feature-packed retro platformer. Every moment of the game screams with nostalgia for the 8-bit era, from the music to the environments. It’s also satisfyingly difficult. You won’t breeze through this game unless you really learn the mechanics, and it’s a pretty good feeling when you really start to master the game. With the new characters having entirely new ways of movement and combat, the game itself takes on a whole different feel with each campaign, requiring you to re-learn how to play when you first start them. At first I found this a bit annoying, as I had been pretty well versed in the Shovel Knight mechanics, but once I learned how to control Plague Knight (and then Specter Knight), I was reminded of why I enjoyed the original game in the first place. Like before, I found the difficulty to be right in line with what a game like this should be. It reminds me a bit of classic games like Mega Man, except not quite as punishing. You are rewarded for getting the mechanics figured out and memorizing loot and enemy placement. The boss fights are fun too.
If you want to know more about Shovel Knight, take a look at our PlayStation and Xbox Reviews. The Switch version has some great perks, especially with the portability the Switch offers, but generally speaking it does nothing new that the Vita version didn’t already pull off, aside from Amiibo support. To be honest, the Amiibo is a gimmick that is hardly worth mentioning, but it is a difference worth mentioning. If I had to pick my favorite version of the game, however, I think the Xbox version still reigns supreme. Controls on the Xbox controller are unquestioningly superior, and the Battletoads Exclusive DLC really does stand on its own. (It’s worth mentioning that the God of War content on the PlayStation version is also pretty cool). That said, the Switch gets some timed exclusivity with DLC for a little while, so you can’t go wrong picking this version up. It’s also available on the 3DS, the Wii U, PC, Linux, and probably your microwave, if it runs a new-ish operating system.
It’s been available for a few years now, but Shovel Knight continues to prove that they found a winning retro formula and continue to make it worth picking up (or revisiting). Not bad for a title launched on Kickstarter (a dangerous prospect for gamers, even today). Don’t miss out on this if you haven’t tried it yet.