Shovel Knight took the gaming world by storm when it first released in 2014. It was one of the first incredible Kickstarter success stories, earned dozens of awards for gaming excellence, and became the golden standard for retro-styled games. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is the definitive Shovel Knight experience. The package comes with two full length additional games, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, tons of bonus challenges, amiibo support and more. Even more crazy? The whole thing costs just $25!
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is a must own game for Switch owners, and one of the best games I have ever played.
Name: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, (Coming in April to Wii U, 3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV)
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Gameplay: Steel Thy Shovel… And Thy Bombs… And Thy Scythes!
When unpacking the entire Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove package, it’s critical to emphasize that Shovel of Hope, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment are three entirely unique games bundled into one. While level layouts are similar, especially in Shovel of Hope and Plague of Shadows, the way you traverse these stages changes dramatically depending on the campaign you’re playing.
Each game does have similar concepts that reappear throughout. Each stage has hidden treasure chests for the player to scrounge up, highly entertaining boss battles, and secret areas. The treasure you find sticks with you throughout your adventure, and you can use to it upgrade your armor, equipment, life and more.
Navigating each stage is a joy, in part thanks to the checkpoint system. When you reach a checkpoint in most stages, you can opt to break it and move forward without saving your progress. This gives you a considerable amount of gold, but if you fall in battle you’ll go back to the last intact checkpoint. The risk/reward system often had me standing by the posts, strategizing based on how confident I was in my own ability.
Another cool concept is the punishment for death. You have unlimited lives in Shovel Knight, so your deaths are punished by dropping a large amount of treasure. If you get back to the place where you died, you can reclaim this lost treasure. Die again before collecting the bags, however, and you’ll lose it forever and have new treasure to regather.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove also has bonus challenges and New Game Plus available for each individual campaign once you’ve cleared the story. That’s an incredible amount of content for just $24.99.
Shovel of Hope
Shovel of Hope is the original Shovel Knight campaign, and the most traditional of the lot. You play as Shovel Knight, a hero coming out of retirement to free the land from The Order of No Quarter. From the get-go it’s clear that the game’s controls are concise. Shovel Knight never felt unwieldy and the result is pure platforming bliss. Our hero can attack enemies by shoveling them, spearing them from above, or using magic items found in chests hidden in each stage.
Of all three campaigns, Shovel of Hope is the easiest. Shovel Knight’s abilities are limited and well-defined right out of the gate, making controlling him simple and delightful. As a platforming veteran, I’d say the difficulty is on par with Super Mario World. The game’s difficulty slowly creeps higher as you close in on The Enchantress’s Castle. Still, the challenge is never overbearing. Additionally, cheap deaths are hard to come by. I can’t think of a time I felt cheated in Shovel of Hope. The stage designs are brilliant.
The levels you progress through all have their own unique identity, and each stands out because of it. You’ll visit all the classic places: a forest, an ice area, a volcano. But there’s also some unique ideas mixed in, like Propellor Knight’s flying stage and Specter Knight’s Lich Yard. Every level has a gimmick to navigate, but those gimmicks never feel overbearing. In the Lich Yard, for example, you’ll run into the occasional power outage where the screen goes dark. These areas pop up sporadically throughout the stage, but aren’t around long enough to wear out their welcome. The same goes for the conveyor belts in Tinker Knight’s stage, and the wind turbines in Propellor Knight’s airship.
Shovel of Hope features a navigable world map ala Super Mario Bros. 3., complete with enemy encounters and challenge levels mixed in with the main stages. You can also visit a few towns and enjoy the lore of the world. For an 8-bit platformer, there is a whole lot of world building in Shovel of Hope. I loved talking to the NPCs because you never knew what to expect. There’s some funny dialogue to be found throughout.
Also adding to the package is the absolutely fire soundtrack. Every single tune in Shovel of Hope is a winner, and they’re guaranteed to be stuck in your head for weeks. And even then, you won’t be tired of them. I’ve had “In the Halls of the Usurper” and “High Above the Land” on repeat since last week.
Best yet, you can also play co-op mode in Shovel of Hope! There are definitely times where it’s clear areas were meant to be navigated by one person only, but for the most part adding a second player is seamless. Unfortunately, Shovel of Hope is the only co-op game in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.
There’s really nothing bad to say about Shovel of Hope. The game hits all the right notes, from beginning to end. If this was the only part of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, I’d still call it a must buy. But it’s not. There are two more games for you to play!
Plague of Shadows
Truthfully, it’s hard for me to differentiate my favorite game included in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. If I was forced to say which I enjoyed the most, I think I’d end up choosing Plague of Shadows. Of all the Shovel Knight games, this one has the most personality. You play as Plague Knight, an alchemist, battling through the same stages that Shovel Knight does on a quest to create the ultimate potion. Plague Knight’s band of alchemists aren’t welcomed in the main town, so instead they work underground. The characters you’ll find there are hilarious, even cute at times, and the sense of humor is again on point. While all three games focus on the theme of love, I found Plague Knight’s story to be the most touching.
His gameplay feels dramatically different than Shovel Knight’s, although things are equally pinpoint. Plague Knight moves slower than Shovel Knight, but he can triple jump and soar through the skies with his bombs. He too finds upgrades hidden throughout each level, and by collecting green coins you can further improve your arsenal. Mixing and matching bomb types with detonators and casings gives players the freedom to take on tough obstacles in their own unique ways. There is always a tool for the job, it’s just a matter of finding it.
Overall, Plague of Shadows is notably more difficult than Shovel of Hope. Plague Knight’s additional jumping ability can make landings tricky as he soars at rapid speeds. Again, deaths are inevitable but fair. I never felt frustrated or stuck playing through Plague of Shadows.
Outside of the gameplay changes, things are mostly intact from the Shovel of Hope campaign. There’s a world map, mini-bosses, and eight knights to defeat before facing off with The Enchantress. The replayability value is high, as there are hidden green coins to collect in every stage. I still haven’t found them all!
All in all, Plague of Shadows is a similar take on Shovel Knight with a new protagonist and interesting power-ups. Again, if this game alone cost $24.99, I’d recommend it to everyone.
Specter of Torment
The final game included in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is Yacht Club’s latest addition: Specter of Torment. You play as the undead Specter Knight, and this one radically changes up the formula. If Shovel of Hope is Mega Man, Specter of Torment is Mega Man X. And that’s awesome. If Yacht Club had made a third game with the marginal changes found in Plague of Shadows, the game would have been bland. They didn’t. Specter of Torment is an intense game with an interesting story and some really cool gameplay twists.
Specter of Torment serves as a prequel to Shovel of Hope, detailing how The Order of No Quarter came to be. Specter Knight himself is a mysterious and unique character, and we learn a lot about him throughout the campaign.
Minor changes include the removal of the world map and towns. Instead, Specter Knight encounters mini-bosses in The Enchantress’s tower, which serves as the central hub. A minion warps Specter Knight from stage to stage as he recruits the boss knight’s into The Order of No Quarter.
hose changes are fine, because this game makes its money in its gameplay. Specter Knight can run up walls a short distance and wall jump. Most importantly though, he can launch through the air by targeting hanging objects, enemy attacks, enemies themselves and more. He’s slower than Shovel Knight, and can’t jump like Plague Knight, but he gets around at the fastest pace thanks to this awesome technique. The best moments in Specter of Torment all come when you’re navigating vast cliffs by launching from target to target. These moments are thrilling, and well implemented in remade boss battles. The final boss in Specter of Torment stands as one of my all-time favorites, despite its relative simplicity compared to the rest of the game. I won’t spoil it, but it’s very cool.
Specter of Torment is by far the hardest of the three campaigns, and I hate to admit that that’s mostly because there are a few problems with the homing slash. Several times I was reminded of frustrating Sonic the Hedgehog deaths, with Specter Knight slashing towards an area I didn’t mean for him to target. There’s also no way to get Specter Knight to do a standard slash in the air when moving towards an enemy. It took me a while to adapt to this, and I often would accidentally sling myself over a cliff when I just wanted to jump and cut. Far too often I perished because Specter Knight slashed down through an enemy on a platform I needed to land on and into a pit, rather than stopping his momentum upon contact. This was frustrating, but perhaps I was just spoiled by the precision of the other two games.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Specter of Torment. I absolutely loved it. My greatest highs while playing Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove all came from this campaign. When things work, and they do 99% of the time, this is the funnest game of the bunch. The feeling you get when slashing through a tough area at high speeds is unmatched. It’s packed with collectables, and features an incredible soundtrack of remixes from the first two campaigns. In the Halls of the King is my favorite, but they’re all amazing.
I’m not the first person to rave about Shovel Knight, and I won’t be the last. This package of games is incredible, each brimming with personality and entertainment. If you even just slightly enjoy fun, you will love Shovel Knight. It’s more than one of the best games of this generation. It’s one of the best games ever created.
I do want make a note of how this game plays on the Switch specifically. I played Treasure Trove in every format possible, and found that it’s best experienced in handheld or docked mode with the Switch Pro-Controller. In co-op, I often had issues getting Shovel Knight to not spike the ground while using the individual Joy-Con held sideways. The joystick isn’t as accurate as a d-pad. That’s not to say you need a pro-controller to enjoy this game, but it is best experienced that way. I had just as much fun playing in handheld or docked mode with the Joy-Con grip. It’s really just the Joy-Cons sideways that’s slightly inaccurate. Tabletop mode works just fine as well, although the screen is a bit small when two people are crammed around it during co-op mode. At the end of the day, the portability aspect makes those slight frustrations completely worth it.
Regardless, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is a must buy for Switch owners, and everyone else once it launches on other consoles this April. I still can’t believe it only runs $24.99, because I’d easily pay $100 for all this content.
Perhaps the best compliment I can pay Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is that, when push came to shove, I often found myself choosing to play it instead of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I haven’t been this in love with a game since Fire Emblem: Awakening released back in 2013. Do yourself a favor and buy it if you haven’t already. You won’t find better value anywhere else.