Shovel Knight Treasure Trove is a brilliant collection of retro inspired platformers sure to go down in history as one of the best side-scrolling adventure series ever created.
I’ll admit that I missed the Shovel Knight hype train back in 2013 when the original release became one of the biggest Kickstarter successes in history. As the years passed I continued to hear about this seemingly simple yet amazing series, and as each new DLC was released I found my interest growing. Eventually I had settled on waiting for Treasure Trove’s release – the culmination of Yacht Club Games six years of work on the series and an epic, jam-packed collection of games each unique and beautifully crafted.
I’m glad I waited, as I got to experience the games throughout the course of an exciting week and genuinely appreciate all the ways that each entry tied into the others and progressed both the story and gameplay elements in fresh and exciting ways.
Since Shovel Knight has been around for quite a few years, this won’t be an in-depth review of each DLC, but rather a short look at each and how they fit into the overall package.
The original, and arguably best, entry is also the simplest. A straightforward side-scrolling action game, you take the reins of Shovel Knight, one of the legendary heroes who once roamed the land alongside Shield Knight, until a disastrous attack at the Tower of Fate where Shovel Knight lost his companion and went into hiding. Unfortunately for Shovel Knight, his solitude proved to be short lived. The Enchantress, a powerful wizard with a collection of knights called the Order of No Quarter, took over the land, forcing Shovel Knight out of hiding to reclaim it and seek revenge on those who took Shield Knight from him.
Almost immediately you are hit with hints of Super Mario Bros 3 inspired design, with an overarching world map, levels with multiple exits, hidden areas on the map, and the ability to tackle levels in random order.
Levels are relatively short, with multiple check points. That said, the game is not easy. While not as unforgiving as many retro platformers, it still has a rather sharp learning curve.
Your weapon is, you guessed it, a shovel. With it you can swing and bounce on enemies and, surprisingly, it is a rather versatile weapon. Still, the developers know the choice is weird and as such multiple NPCs will comment on your weapon choice or joke about how you’re not dangerous since obviously you can’t fight with only a shovel. It’s all very tongue in cheek, and adds to the immense charm oozing out of every crevice of this game.
Nearly every level ends with a boss fight, as you take down one of The Enchantress’s Knights of No Quarter. Each knight is unique and has a unique lair and gimmick to their fight. I won’t spoil any of the fights here, but each one is exciting and challenging.
The game is great at introducing new concepts without pushing a tutorial on you. If you take your time and look around each area, you’ll eventually discover what the game is trying to teach you. No new concept Is throw at you when death is an immediate option – instead they are usually shown to you in a relatively safe space before throwing you right into a dangerous area on the next screen.
Thankfully, death is not all that bad. Upon death you drop three bags of cash of varying amounts – the higher amount of money you are holding the higher amount you’ll drop – but you can regain your money by reaching the area where you died and snatching the bags back. My advice: Spend the money when you can on various upgrades so death isn’t as painful or aggravating.
Nearly eight hours in length, Shovel Knight is a great adventure with hilarious characters, an interesting and fun story, creative levels, and difficult boss fights.
Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows
Plague of Shadows is a prequel to the events of Shovel Knight and sees the player take the reins of one of the Knights of No Quarter, Plague Knight, as he fights each Knight in turn in hopes of gaining crucial ingredients he needs to create a potion of ultimate power and win the love of Mona, a master alchemist.
The map and levels are almost identical to the base Shovel Knight game, although this time movement is based on bombs and launching yourself across the map. Tricky at first, it does eventually click and become fun to play with the various types of bombs and their abilities. But beware that frustration may set in at times as the game does not take the time to explain the bomb jumping process in much detail.
Not everything that was accessible to Shovel Knight is immediately accessible to you, as areas which you frequented during your first run through will now be closed off. You’re a bad guy and the townspeople will not let you in. Fortunately, there are alternative routes and many of the characters you encountered the first time through will appear again in various creative ways.
I was a bit disappointed in the lack of differences between the base game and Plague of Shadows. Aside from the combat difference the game remains almost entirely the same. The main difference being the levels are harder than Shovel Knight due to the bomb mechanic, but the boss fights felt incredibly easy. Unfortunately, the fighting patterns don’t change from the base game and as such, it’s not as fun to fight these characters again.
That said, the game does still provide 6 to 8 hours of play time and some charming scenes and genuinely fun areas to launch yourself through. But in Treasure Trove, it is my least favorite game. Good on its own, but when played directly after the base game it does lose a bit of its charm.
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Ditching the over world map, Specter feels like an entirely different game. Giving the player the first back-story of any of the Knights, you take the reins of the Specter Knight, an undead ninja with amazing agility and lighting fast attacks, as he works with The Enchantress to collect Knights for her Order of No Quarter and regain his life.
A prequel, this game feels fast and fresh. Your lair serves as a base hub where you can purchase new items and choose which level to tackle via a portal. Various characters from the previous two entries cross your path along the way, but this game focuses almost solely on Specter Knight’s story and how he ended up a member of the Order of No Quarter.
Each level is a Knight’s lair and is drastically changed from the previous two iterations of the game. You must now traverse via wall jumps and quick sword slashes in what is essentially a faster paced run through of the world.
I immensely enjoyed my time with Specter of Torment. The game felt fresh and exciting and boasted a much more detailed storyline, which ultimately led Yacht Club Games to create the best of their DLC entries….
Shovel Knight: King of Cards
King of Cards is the most detailed of the DLC adventures and is as close to a brand new game as possible. Bringing back the over world and multiple exits, King of Cards features entirely new levels and enemies. While the same boss fights exist, they are now fresh and unpredictable with new twists.
Another prequel, King of Cards tells the story of King Knight as he scours the world in hopes of becoming the Joustus champion and gaining his own kingdom.
Joustus, a card game created for King of Cards, is impressive on its own with complicated rules and hundreds of collectible cards. Various Joustus tournaments exist which you can choose to participate in or ignore, but serve to add multiple hours of playtime to an already impressive length campaign.
If you’re not a fan of card games than you’re in luck, as Joustus is basically never required to complete the game despite the story centering heavily around Joustus. This allowed me to enjoy the game on my own time without any needless aggravation that may have come from needing to beat a particular person at cards to progress and not being good enough.
Combat is based on smashing into things, but with the added feature of King Knight being able to pick up multiple secondary abilities to traverse the land in style and unleash havoc.
Levels are smaller, but there are now more and many do not feature boss fights, and as such the levels are more bite sized and serve to keep the game ever changing and unpredictable. I enjoyed the levels having only one or two check points rather than five and the shorter levels kept me pushing forward when in previous entries I may have quit for the night due to time constraints.
King of Cards is everything that makes Shovel Knight great: creative levels, fun combat, multiple secrets, a great overworld, interesting characters, and complex boss fights. I spent well over 12 hours in King of Cards and still didn’t accomplish everything.
Shovel Knight: Showdown
Showdown is a complete change of pace from previous DLC and is essentially a fighting game similar to Smash Bros at times. You take the reins of many of the characters from the previous four entries as you fight your way through multiple battles. Sometimes you have to dcollect a certain amount of gems without dying too often, other times you must only defeat everybody else on the map. It’s a fun free for all and a huge change from the structured levels of the base game.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is one of the best collections of platformers in recent memory. Each DLC is worth purchasing on its own and as a package you really can’t find a much better bang for your buck. If you’re a fan of platformers, retro style gameplay, or even Mario 3, you’ll find tons to love in this incredibly crafted package.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo 3DS. A review code was given to Fan Fest News by Yacht Club Games for the purpose of this review.
Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. When he’s not writing about video games on FanFest.com you can find him on Broadway World or in Graffiti Magazine. He can be contacted via email at [email protected] or [email protected] You can visit his website at facebook.com/richardallenwrites