Born in 2013 as Kickstarter campaign who wanted to pay homage to 8 Bit platform titles, Shovel Knight has now become an iconic and recognized character throughout the indie video game landscape.
Ever since development began, supporters of the title have had a choice four additional contents to the main campaign, which over time have developed into original games set in the Shovel Knight universe.
Free for those who have bought the Treasure Trove edition of the game, this DLC series has finally come to an end after five years of waiting, with the release of the King Knight campaign, called King of Cards, and the party game Shovel Knight Showdown.
For the occasion we decided to revisit in order all five titles created by the boys of Yatch Club Games, to give a final judgment on the complete and definitive version of the game.
Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope
Released in 2014 for PC, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Shovel of Hope is the original campaign of the title, which sees Shovel Knight explore the most disparate realms in search of his mate Shield Knight.
In the following years the title and its expansions were ported to almost every console, both of the previous generation and the current one.
The influence of titles for the NES and SNES is particularly evident: from color palette from the protagonist to design of its rivals, clearly inspired by the Mega Man titles, but with a progression system more similar to that of Super Mario Bros. 3.
Various elements of the Castlevania series and Duck Tales.
However, the developers did not stop at the surface, and by mixing and enriching these historical titles they modernized them, adding more precise and smoother controls, as well as numerous game design elements more modern.
Elements that would then be retained in later titles are destructible checkpoints, which can give more treasures to the player at the cost of losing a great deal of progress in the event of death.
Furthermore, no lives are lost at death, but a part of one's treasures, which will reappear at that point in the form of flying bags.
By being able to return to the place without dying we will be given the opportunity to recover them, but every now and then we will get stuck in places impossible to reach, forcing us to give up an important part of our finances.
The small towns scattered around the game map are full of NPCs with extremely varied designs and personalities.
Some of them will give us quests to complete by collecting special collectibles, others will give us permanent upgrades, armature that will give us new skills or just gods funny and light humor dialogues.
Last key element of the game is the level design, which takes up the tradition of teaching mechanics through gameplay, without any line of dialogue.
From the first level players will learn everything they need simply by reaching the finish line, and even in subsequent levels unique mechanics and obstacles will be introduced slowly, only to be reshuffled in ways always new and more complex.
Do not miss the exclusive content for the various consoles. Only on PlayStation 4 in fact there is a secret boss fight against Kratoswhile on Xbox One i appear Battletoads and on platforms Nintendo there is support for Amiibo based on the characters of the game.
Plague of Shadows
In September 2015 the first was published DLC campaign, which as decided by the kickstarter supporters, sees the protagonist Plague Knight, one of the bosses of the original game.
This title proposes a remixed version of all the levels, with new obstacles and gimmicks to accommodate the moveset of the new playable character.
If Shovel Knight only had one horizontal attack, one falling attack, and some magical items, Plague Knight offers a unique complex mechanic, never seen again in the rest of the series.
Players can indeed combine different bombs, mice and chemicals at will to create a wide variety of explosives, each suited to different needs and play styles.
This, combined with a loaded jump and the ability to remain suspended for a few seconds, it gives Plague Knight unique platforming mechanics that allow him to fly over wide levels no less original and complex than those faced by his blue rival.
Checkpoints, treasures of death and secret collectibles make their return, but instead of several cities, we will find a single secret laboratory of Plague Knight and his assistant, Mona.
Specter of Torment
In March 2017, along with the publication of the two previous campaigns on the Nintendo Switch, it was released Specter of Torment, the second DLC campaign starring the mysterious Specter Knight.
Once again we will find ourselves exploring remixed versions of already known levels and bosses, but original gimmicks and the unique abilities of the spooky protagonist will make the experience fresh and original again.
In this prequel campaign we will have to recruit the other bosses that Shovel Knight will then have to face in his adventure, as we explore some sequences on the backstory by Specter Knight and how he became a servant of the Enchantress.
Specter Knight is the most agile character of all, capable of run and jump off the walls, slip on your scythe e hook onto holds and enemies suspended in mid-air for an aerial boost.
Such moves can be combined smoothly, allowing you to fly through the levels without ever stopping.
Once again we will find ourselves in ansingle central hub, but now we will no longer have an overworld map to navigate. Instead, the layers will be selected via a simple menu.
Instead, an original challenge has been added, which will see us climb a vertical level with randomly generated obstacles, and a final prize once you reach the top.
It also exists a difficult mode, which combines the bar of life with that of darkness, or the mana necessary to use our objects, leading it to wear out slowly and forcing us to eliminate every enemy we find to absorb the necessary energy to keep us alive.
King of Cards
After two years, the last DLC campaign has finally arrived, which sees as the protagonist the arrogant King Knight. Not being a true king yet, his goal is to become the greatest player of Jotus of the world, to be crowned King of Cards.
His moveset is the most limited of the cast: in addition to the classic jump and magical objects he can in fact perform only a horizontal shoulder, which will give him an aerial boost if he hits something.
Until you touch the ground or bounce off another object, however, we will not be able to repeat this maneuver, often turning it into a double-edged sword thanks to a level design that once again manages to amaze and make the most of King Knight's unique mechanics.
He makes his triumphal return the world map in the style of Super Mario Bros. 3, with even more levels than before even though each of them is noticeably shorter.
Each level however brings new and thoroughly explored gimmicks, with some of them presenting secondary exits to discover alternative ways in the overworld.
From time to time we can have fun with a secondary mode, the card game Jotus that is depopulating in the kingdom. The rules of the game they are simple: you have to place your cards in a grid to capture the spaces with gems, and when the whole grid is occupied whoever has the most gems wins.
However, cards can have different effects, from moving both your own tiles and those of the opponent, eliminating those on the sides, or transforming those already placed into different ones.
Game tables can also change from challenge to challenge, making each challenge new and interesting.
Those who want to live a pure platform experience, however, will not be forced to try their hand at the challenges in Jotus, which remain an optional content for completists.
Shovel Knight Showdown
The latest promised add-on was a multiplayer fighting game mode, which came at the same time as the King Knight campaign. However lacking any form of wireless communication, this DLC is completely absent on PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS.
The game is proposed as a platform fighter, in which we will be able to play as all the main characters of the series in different stages inspired by the game levels.
The moveset of the characters is not particularly varied, but the obstacles present in the arenas themselves and the game modes present still bring enough variety to the clashes.
The story mode will make us choose a character that will face a series of predetermined clashes. At the beginning and at the end of each of them we will be able to attend some interactions between the various characters, many of which have never been seen in other titles.
In multiplayer mode up to four players we will have available two main game modes, further customizable thanks to a menu of options.
In the Showdown mode we will simply have to eliminate all the lives of our opponents, and be the last character standing before time runs out.
In Treasure Clash instead our goal will be to collect gems which will appear randomly on the stage, until a predetermined quota is reached. On death, however, we will lose one that can be picked up by our opponents, and if we lose all lives we will automatically lose.
Although does not offer a particular variety, this fighting game mode can still offer hours of fun if played in the company of a group of friends, thanks also to the extremely simple and quick to learn commands.
A masterful level design
As already mentioned above, all four platform campaigns feature creative and intelligent level design, which uses the repetition of assets and concepts between the various games as a strength to amaze the players every time.
In fact, what previously could have been an obstacle in another title is transformed into an element to be exploited with one's new skills and vice versa.
Each level brings with it new gimmicks and obstacles, which are introduced to the player in a safe environment where he can experiment with them and understand how they work, before they are proposed in more complex contexts or in combination with other elements.
Many levels also hide hidden passages for bonus stages or, in the case of King of Cards, real ones alternative routes and goals.
The relics, magical items that can be bought or collected, also offer new ways to approach levels, both through new combat options and aids for the more difficult platforming sections.
Be careful not to abuse them, as they always ask for the use of a certain amount of mana, which can only be recharged by collecting specific items.
Despite this some of them, such as the Phaze Locket, are particularly unbalanced, allowing you to completely avoid some challenges despite a particularly low mana cost.
A nostalgic but modern artistic direction
Despite at first glance the series seems to draw complete inspiration from NES era titles, it takes advantage of numerous options that were not present at the time.
The color palette is in fact rich in colors, with very detailed sprites e backgrounds that move in parallax creating an effect of depth that was impossible thirty years ago, while animations also have many more frames than games of yesteryear.
The soundtrack, also inspired by 8-Bit tones, is not limited to a single audio channel but takes full advantage of modern innovations by creating a real chiptune orchestra.
The result is a game with a clean, modern aesthetic, but one that gives older players the impression of straight out of a cartridge from their childhood.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove gathers within it a collection of platform titles of the highest quality, able to take the inspiration of the past to propose four original and fun adventures.
Every single level is able to amaze and challenge the players, always remaining honest in the challenge level and gradually climbing the difficulty.
The nostalgic yet modern aesthetic, joined to the characters from weird comedy but engaging manages to create a fantastic and alive world, which leads to wanting to explore it more and more, so much so that the entire collection leaves unsatisfied and eager for new adventures and challenges.
The Specter of Torment, King of Cards campaigns and the Showdown party game are also available sold separately, but we recommend purchasing them as part of the collection Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.