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Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment mini-review


Shovel Knight is one of the few really strong examples of a successful video game Kickstarter. It was delayed nearly a year compared to the estimate date on the kickstarter page, but the wait was well worth it. Shovel Knight was a fantastic game in basically every aspect.

I don’t think I reviewed the first DLC, Plague of Shadows. But it was quite fun and felt like a completely different game than Shovel Knight despite taking place in largely similar levels and environments and using pretty much all the same components.

Specter of Torment is the latest DLC, and I thought I’d give my quick impressions about it.

Read on!

Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Date of Release: March 9th 2017, on other platforms some time in April
Platform: Switch, more later
Genre: Side-scrolling platformer

Rated E for Everyone

Presentation

It’s Shovel Knight! I feel this one looks a bit bleaker than the others. Plus the music in each level, despite being the “same” as in the other 2 campaigns, is actually completely different. Like, Lich Yard still plays La Danse Macabre, but it’s a creepier version of it with slightly different composition and tone.

The story follows Specter Knight before the events of the now-titled Shovel of Hope story, as he is gathering the other knights to work under the Enchantress. Reize actually plays a bigger role here which is surprising. You also get some backstory about Specter Knight before he became Specter Knight and a bit for Shield Knight. It’s not bad. Doesn’t feel like it’s a part of the story that really needed to be told though.

Gameplay

In a way Specter Knight feels a bit like Shovel Knight, at least when he’s on the ground. Moves much the same, his attack on the ground is much the same… but in the air he’s completely different. When you get close enough to an enemy (or other things like lanterns) while jumping, a diagonal line goes across it (upwards if you’re lower than it, downwards if you’re higher than it). Pressing the attack button then makes you dash in the air, slashing the enemy or object along to way and going to the other side of them. This deals damage, makes you move fast and is used to get to higher areas. This is pretty fun to use, though it requires some precision because if you time your button press wrong while falling

Specter Knight can also wall jump and climb walls (which is really misleading because you always feel like he should be able to go higher than he actually does). Yay? You can combine that with the dash attack for kinda cool platforming segments. However Specter Knight clings to the walls way too easily sometimes, making it really annoying to move around at points.

The subweapons are somewhat interesting. Some of them feel much like something Shovel Knight could’ve used like the boomerang mini-scythe (I think that’s what they are), others are really unique like the ability to float or to fly to enemies to slash them (moving kinda like the boss version of Specter Knight). I didn’t end up using too many of them though, some of them like the bouncy thing were clearly superior in many situations. No idea if the close-range slash one has any use though (outside of being a non-dash air attack, but that’s what the boomerang is for). Oh, instead of potions to use subweapons you find darkness energy, which I think you get from killing enemies? I dunno. It’s basically the same thing except you can’t hoard a pile.

Specter Knight has his own unique pick-up, red skulls. Those can be traded in for subweapons (and money once you got all the subweapons). If you pick up a red skull and die, you keep it so you don’t need to get it again (though you lose it if you quit a level without finishing it). You can also use money to buy different armors, or upgrades for your subweapons.

While the auto-scrollers in the Shovel Knight campaign were pretty decent (as far as auto-scrollers go), most of the time pretty well-designed for the mechanics, here they really aren’t. Since it’s pretty easy to mistime the dash attack, or “attaching” to walls too easily when you don’t want to, that means you’re likely to get stuck on these. (I’m including things that aren’t exactly “auto”-scrollers but act like them here, such as these areas where pillars move up and down and might squish you so you have to wait)

And that’s really about all there is to say about this.

Overall

There’s currently 3 story modes in Shovel Knight, and sadly I’d say this one is definitely on the lower end compared to Shovel of Hope and Plague of Shadows. I don’t think the main mechanic of this one (the dash attack) is fun enough to warrant a whole campaign based on it. Both Shovel Knight and Plague Knight have much more interesting aspects to their kits.

So it’s not bad, just not remarkable, not “you must run out and get this game”. You should still buy Shovel Knight, it is an amazing game. But Specter of Torment isn’t the reason to get it. It’s just a nice bonus.

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