Game Corner: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Xbox One)

Released: December 2019
Originally Released: 26 June 2014
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Also Available For: Amazon Fire TV, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, OS X Linux, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PlayStation Vita, Xbox Series X/S

The Background:
Shovel Knight began life as a lunch time joke between the development team that soon grew into a serious videogame concept. Inspired by the bright, colourful 8-bit platformers from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) days, the game sought to combine ludicrous concepts with backtracking, exploration, and simple pick-up-and-play mechanics to make it as accessible as possible. Following a wealth of interest and support, the game easily surpassed and exceeded its Kickstarter goals and released to widespread critical acclaim and sold over 700,000 copies. Shovel Knight quickly became an influential indie title; the character cameoed in a number of other titles and the game was accompanied by a bunch of equally-lauded downloadable content (DLC) that was eventually collected in this Treasure Trove edition of the game.

The Plot:
During a fateful adventure up the Tower of Fate, Shovel Knight’s partner and lover, Shield Knight, is cursed by a mysterious amulet. Grief stricken, Shovel Knight goes into exile but takes up arms once more to rescue his beloved when the malevolent Enchantress rises to power and unseals the Tower of Fate, though he’ll have to travel far and combat the Enchantress’s “Order of No Quarter” in order to triumph.

Gameplay:
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is a collection of 8-bit-style platformers that are heavily inspired by the platforming titles that populated the NES back in the day, and these are comprised of four sidescrolling, story-based campaigns and a multiplayer battle mode. I’ll cover these other modes later in the review but the main story, Shovel of Hope, puts players in control of the titular armoured knight, a cute little figure who travels across a fantasy land smacking enemies with his trusty shovel, collecting gems and gold, defeating the Order of No Quarter, and acquiring powerful relics to aid his righteous quest. Shovel Knight’s controls and options are fully customisable; players are given ten save slots and can name, copy, and delete each one, can adjust the volume and sound effects, the screen shake and flash, and can customise the game’s controls to their liking. I was happy with the standard setup, though, which sees Shovel Knight jumping with A, attacking with X or B, and switching relics with the Left- and Right Bumper but I did map the relics to the Y button for faster use. Shovel Knight moves at a brisk pace and has a generous jump; he’s never too slippery or unwieldy and can reach most platforms with no problem, though carelessness will see you tumble into a bottomless pits or a bed (or ceiling) of instant-death spikes and lava.

Use Shovel Knight’s pogo attack to traverse levels and be sure to recover your lost gold!

While Shovel Knight can dispatch most enemies with a few swipes of his trusty shovel, one of his most useful attacks is a pogo stick-like manoeuvre that allows him to bounce off enemies, break blocks, and hop around to reach higher areas by holding down as you jump in the air. This quickly becomes the most versatile move in your arsenal and absolutely essential to traversing the game’s levels even right from the off as you use it to bounce off bubbles to cross chasms. Bottomless pits and instant death spikes and lava are peppered all throughout Shovel Knight, alongside a variety of enemies who will respawn when you leave the screen or fall from an upper area. Shovel Knight begins the game with four hearts, and can take eight hits before dying, though these (and your maximum item total) can be increased at the village hub world. Although you are blessed with infinite lives, and a number of generous checkpoints are littered throughout the game’s levels (though be wary as these can be destroyed, which can set you back a bit), you’ll lose some of your accumulated gold upon death. After respawning, you can try to reclaim your lost gold, but often this can simply result in another death as they float around near hazardous areas and, if you die before reclaiming your loot, it’ll disappear and be replaced with your next set of lost gold. Thankfully, enemies will drop gold and gems upon defeat, you can dig up mounds of dirt and fish in sparkling areas to grab more coins and ammo, and you’ll find apples and roast chickens sporadically spawning after defeating certain enemies or opening certain chests (though again, be wary as these often contain bombs, too!)

Each DLC character is similar but has unique differences, like King Knight being hampered by a card game.

The other characters in the DLC modes control similarly, but also very differently: Plague Knight tosses bombs with X, and holding X will charge up his “bomb burst” to allow him to reach higher, further areas. He has no equivalent to the pogo attack but has a double jump and can stay airborne by rapidly tossing bombs while in mid-air, and can alter his bombs and his burst to attack in more diverse ways. Specter Knight can run up walls and attacks with his deadly scythe; he also breaks blocks just by jumping on them and absorbs magic (or “Darkness”) from enemies, but lacks a double jump. Of the four playable characters, King Knight provides the most startlingly different gameplay; his platforming levels are much shorter and occasionally have secret exits, bosses are fought in special areas on the overworld, and he must barge into enemies and walls to progress with a little tornado twirl, but the main focus of his story is on Joustus. This is an aggravating card game that you must play to complete his story and sees you placing cards to fill a small grid (usually 2×2), shoving your opponent’s cards away and claiming gems at the same time. Sadly, I absolutely suck at card games and had no patience for this; your opponents use better, more powerful cards as you progress, meaning you need to shuffle your deck accordingly but risk losing your better cards as a result. Personally, I found it easier to limp my way through and use the “Card Thief” cheat to steal a victory when needed.

Levels are soon peppered with a variety of tricky sections and hazards to keep you on your toes.

Shovel Knight starts off pretty simply but you’ll soon find your platforming skills tested by bigger chasms and more elaborate onscreen hazards and enemy placements. Very soon, you’ll have to contend with temporary platforms, explosive enemies, burning lava falling from above, and tricky bouncing trips across floating enemies to reach higher paths and find bigger and better gems and loot out of the way. It’s also worth swiping at walls here and there as they often contain treasure chests and can help provide an extra platform for you to get your bearings, and you can occasionally reflect enemy’s fireballs back at them with your shovel, which is a nice touch. Soon, you have to cross chasms on moving or temporary platforms, use your shovel to bounce along on small and large cannonballs or enemies, and jump from ladder to ladder across smaller and smaller platforms. In Pridemoor Keep, you’ll have to hit a magical book to spawn platforms for a short time, while you’ll have to cross deadly waters in the Lich Yard using carefully weighting red skeletal platforms. Both enemies and platforms will explode in the aptly-named Explodatorium and flames will burst from the ground to knock you to your death, and you’ll need to make carefully-timed jumps in the Iron Whale’s underwater sections, where the water makes you extra floaty.

Levels are accessed from an overworld map and feature a number of mechanics to test your skills.

Stages are accessed via an overworld map that’s clearly inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo R&D4, 1988), with paths and areas unlocking as you progress; from here, you can also enter the village and other safe areas where you can interact with non-playable characters (NPCs) very much like in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (ibid, 1987) to learn hints and flesh out the game’s story and upgrade Shovel Knight’s abilities. NPCs are full of life and character and will often ask for payment of some sort, or have you watch a little dance or indulge their whims before they’ll help you. You can also access shortcuts to literally catapult you across the map and challenge a number of additional bosses on the overworld; between stages you’ll be occasionally be asked to catch Shield Knight as she falls from the sky (often after fending off a hoard of enemies) and you can even uncover smaller bonus areas where you can farm a few extra gems and gold for your troubles. Levels eventually get much more difficult and feature staples such as vertical and horizontally autoscroller sections, slippery ice platforms, winds that will propel you over gaps or up towards a dreaded spike ceiling, and a weird floating platform you have to hit to spawn temporary rainbow platforms that allow you to cross a dangerous chasm. All of your skills will be tested when you reach the three-stage final area, the Tower of Fate, which brings back some of the trickiest stage hazards from the levels prior and remixes them with tougher enemies, intangible platforms, and light tricks to really test your mettle.

Graphics and Sound:
Shovel Knight is presented exactly like an 8-bit title from the glory days of the NES, and looks absolutely fantastic as a result; everything from the levels to the sprite work not only looks exactly akin to the likes of DuckTales (Capcom, 1989) and Castlevania (Konami, 1986) but also sounds just like those old school titles, as well. Levels are punctuated by some incredibly catchy, 8-bit-style chip tunes that, like Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Inti Creates, 2018), perfectly captures the look and feel of the bygone area of videogaming while bringing in modern gameplay tweaks and quality of life improvements, especially when it comes to the controls and presentation. While Shovel Knight doesn’t have much in the way of an idle animation (his armour simply glints when he stands still), levels are packed full of colour and detail, including background elements and all kinds of different objects to interact with or explore; the drapes in Pridemoor Keep, for example, hide gems and the chandeliers will fall from the ceiling and there’s even a beautiful aurora borealis in the background of the Stranded Ship stage.

The game’s environments are full of life and colour and perfectly capture the 8-bit aesthetic.

Speaking of which, this level, like many in the game, features a variety of areas to keep each level visual interesting; it starts off as an ice and snow world before you venture on to a Viking ship. Similarly, the Iron Whale features underwater sections but also sees you fighting through a submerged submarine. Areas are generally as cliché as you might expect from a platformer of this kind (forest-like plains, a castle, the aforementioned ice and water stages, and a lava stage) but are made all the more visually appealing and interesting thanks to this variety. The Lich Yard is both a haunted town and a spooky graveyard, for example; Mole City is an underground cavern filled with different types of dirt and rock and lava, and the Tower of Fate is a suitably ominous, gothic castle. In some stages, you’ll encounter a near-total absence of light as the environments and sprites are cast in silhouettes, or lit only by brief flashes of lighting; rain will beat down, revealing tangible platforms, and you’ll be hard pressed to stay on safe, solid ground as you desperately hop around on the Flying Machine. The entire game as a charming, fantasy aesthetic that is perfectly evoked in every area, from the overworld map to the safe areas, to the varied stages and it was genuinely impressive to see how much detail was crammed into the game considering the 8-bit graphical aesthetic.

NES style graphics, sprites, and text do a wonderfully charming job of telling the story.

The game’s story is told through the use of classic NES-style text and larger sprite work for certain cutscenes; there’s no voice acting here at all beyond a few chuckles and such, but text scrolls by at a decent speed to keep you invested. Encounters with bosses and rivals is proceeded by using text boxes over the in-game graphics, and you can freely skip any of the game’s cutscenes whenever you like. After clearing the game, you’ll view a nice little coda that shows you how the kingdom repaired following the Enchantress’s defeat, and the additional story missions take this all one step further since each of these takes place either before or before and during the main story to flesh out some of the game’s bosses. This allows you to see the tragic backstory and downfall of the Specter Knight and the events that led to him serving the Enchantress, King Knight’s lust for power and riches causing him to sell out his friends and family, and Plague Knight’s unsuccessful attempt to usurp the Enchantress’s power for himself. All of this presents the game’s levels in different ways, with layouts switched up, music remixed, NPCs presented differently (enemies will act as NPCs in many of these stories, which is fun), and even an altered overworld map and presentation of levels (taking place at night or at dusk, for example), which really helps to add extra variety to the game and expand the story even though you are, essentially, replaying the same levels.

Enemies and Bosses:
There are a variety of enemies populating Shovel Knight’s world, ranging from little bugs and rats (which either explode or float around on propellers), to sword-wielding skeletons, a number of wizards (who throw out fireballs, gears, bombs, or snowflakes), to ghosts who either turn intangible or fly towards you to take a bite out of you and charging lance-wielding horses! As you progress, more elaborate enemies will appear, such as a range of knights (who can both shield against your attacks and toss projectiles in an arch, alongside their sword attacks), the liquid samurai (who rushes at you with a sword or fires arrows at you), pharaoh-like skeletons who try to submerge you in water, electrified frogs, and a barrage of needle-like enemies, erratic birds, and electric eels and jellyfish who try to knock you into pits or spikes. You’ll also have to be mindful of crushing hazards, bombs dropping from overhead, and other onscreen dangers that can send you to your death, though you can also turn these against your enemies if you attack them just right.

In addition to recurring mini bosses like Black Knight, you’ll also fight Shovel Knight in the DLC!

Some larger enemies will also appear in levels and act as mini bosses, of sorts. The first these you’ll encounter is a large, bubble-spitting dragon who can only be attacked by bouncing on his bubbles and his head; next, you’ll comes across a stationary griffin who tries to swipe at you when you’re up close and spits wavy fireballs at you (and, again, is vulnerable only on its head). A massive skeleton haunts the Lich Yard and will bounce around trying to crush you or drop you to the deadly waters below, and collapses into a pile of bones when attacked; a giant angler fish chases you through the watery caverns of the Iron Whale stage and can only be damaged by hitting the treasure chest dangling from its head; and a giant, spear-wielding, armoured grunt dogs your progress in Mole City. There’s a mad scientist in the Explodetorium who frantically tosses vials at you and transforms into a rampaging beast, spear-throwing Vikings in the Stranded Ship whose helmets protect them from aerial attacks, gear-tossing brutes in the Clockwork Tower, and a bomb-throwing airship in the Flying Machine stage, and remixed versions of these mini bosses are peppered throughout the Tower of Fate and the other stories (the dragon spits snowflakes, for example, and the angler fish attacks from above as well as from the side). Before you can even battle the Order of No Quarter, you’ll have to contend with the Black Knight, Shovel Knight’s rival who acts as the first boss and a recurring boss throughout the game. In the first battle, the Black Knight attacks very similar to Shovel Knight (shovel swings and a pogo-like attack) while also tossing out purple fireballs that you can reflect back, but he later gets a big power-up and sprouts swings! Flying around the entrance to the Tower of Fate, he dashes around faster than you can see and launches numerous fireballs at you, and conjures meteors and rocks to rain down on you. He’s also noticeably more challenging when playing Specter of Torment as he hops onto a rhino-like creature to charge at you, and you’ll also battle against Shovel Knight himself in this mode, in the Explodatorium, who attacks very similar to the Black Knight (only using Shovel Knight’s relics).

You’ll encounter altered versions of bosses depending on which character you choose.

At the end of Pridemoor Keep, you’ll battle King Knight, who hops around his throne room occasionally dropping down for a stunning attack and dashes towards you for a quick attack, and causes confetti to rain down in the arena while posing. When battling him as Specter Knight, King Knight will cause holes to appear in the floor and also floats overheard dropping blocks and cards. In the King of Cards story, when playing as King Knight, you’ll battle his father, King Pridemoor, instead: King Pridemoor hops into a mech-like armour and wields a mace, a devastating charge attack, and even calls on a griffin to fly overhead and spit fireballs at you. Specter Knight awaits you in the Lich Yard; this Grim Reaper-like figure hovers around, tossing his scythe like a buzzsaw and rushing at you, conjuring skeletons and causing lightning flashes to limit your visibility, forcing you to hop around on the platforms and toss projectiles or swing at him as he passes. This is actually a bit easier as Plague Knight thanks to his different bomb casings, and is entirely absent in Specter of Torment, where it’s supplanted by the otherwise optional bout against the Phantom Striker. Plague Knight himself guards the end of the Explodatorium, bouncing and teleporting all over the arena, tossing bombs, and conjuring jars of chemicals and doubles of himself. While Plague Knight battles Shovel Knight in this area, he does have to battle a dark mirror of himself later in Plague of Shadows, while King Knight must first battle Plague Knight’s underling, Percy, and then Plague Knight and Percy at the same time in King of Cards, both of whom feature similar bomb/projectile-based attacks and destructible blocks beneath your feet.

Later bosses will use their environment to attack, defend, and endanger you.

Treasure Knight, who greatly resembles one of Mega Man’s (Capcom, 1987) Robot Masters, waits at the end of the Iron Whale and attacks using a retractable, claw-like anchor on a chain; he also floats overhead, grappling down at you or landing with a shockwave that kips up sand or causes mines to float around the arena in bubbles. When facing him as Specter Knight and King Knight, you’ll find the arena slightly changed up and that Treasure Knight also drains the water and attacks by kicking up gold. Mole Knight opts to charge at you through the dirt walls of his boss arena, sending sparks flying at you as he skids along the floor, and also burrows into the ground, causes lava to form a protective shield over himself while also spitting embers out at you, and drops blocks into the arena to damage or entrap you. In the DLC stories, he spawns in bouncy green gel that actually helps you to fight him since the new characters have different moves and abilities. Similarly, Polar Knight drops in extra pillars to aid your progress in the DLC stories, while still sending giant snowballs towards you with his snow shovel, dropping down from above, and digging up snow to uncover deadly spikes in the arena. You can also pay 5000 gold to enter the Hall of Champions, where a massive ghost awaits; you can actually damage him, however, thanks to the lanterns in the area that you can hit to spit off light blasts to damage him or dispel his little minions. This boss also reappears in the Eerie Manor in King of Cards, and you can do the reverse of the Hall of Champions in Plague of Shadows (i.e.: slaughtering a bunch of knights and turning the hall dark rather than brightening it up by defeating ghosts).

Bosses become much trickier and you’ll need to conquer a boss rush before taking on the Enchantress.

After besting the spiral pillars and turning gears of Clockwork Tower, you’ll face off with Tinker Knight, a tiny little welder guy who frantically runs around tossing spanners at you. Once you defeat him, he hops into a giant mech, which fires small missiles and larger ones that you can use to hop up to his head and land some good hits. In the DLC stories, this latter stage is repurposed as an autoscrolling chase, with Tinker Knight hovering just overhead to the right and the mech endlessly pursuing you while churning up the ground. Propeller Knight was probably the trickiest boss in my first run; this guy darts at you with a rapier, blows you towards the gaps in the arena, and tries to skewer you before destroying parts of the platform with cannonballs from his airship. In the DLC stories, a new, much easier second phase is added to this where you’re in freefall, jumping from debris and platforms and avoiding the bombs he drops across the screen. As if battling these knights wasn’t enough, you’ll have to fight them all again in a boss rush in the Tower of Fate; each one attacks you in turn, though you are given health and magic power-ups between each fight to tip the odds in your favour, and you’ll even have to fight Shovel Knight again when playing the Plague of Shadow story. Once you get past this, though, you’ll reach the final area; after avoiding and crossing some floating blocks intent on killing you, you’ll battle the Enchantress, who rapidly fires energy blasts at you that you can reflect back at her, floats around, dashes at you diagonally, and conjures flames to destroy the blocks of the arena. You’ll also have to be careful of using your pogo attack as that’ll destroy the blocks beneath you, which makes this quite tricky but it’s even harder as Plague Knight as your bombs (your primary attack) frequently destroy these same blocks (though I found the battle easier as Specter Knight and King Knight since the blocks disappeared less frequently and there were more opportunities to attack her, and she spawns temporary blocks that you can use to your advantage).

Each story ends with a massive, increasingly difficult and frustrating boss battle.

Once she’s defeated, she transforms into her ultimate form and begins showering the arena with energy balls and wrecking the ground; luckily, you’re joined by Shield Knight, who shields you from these attacks and creates a platform you can pogo off to hit the Enchantress’s head (which can be tough to pull off until you get the timing down) and, even better, you won’t have to battle the Enchantress’s first phase if you die on her second phase. When playing Plague of Shadow, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards, you’ll be treated to a unique second phase to this boss battle. Plague Knight battles a gigantic, corrupted version of himself that spits orbs from its mouth, fires dual laser beams, and jumps all over the arena and will need a very specific weapon combination (the lob casing, cluster powder, and big bomb arcane) to actually attack the weak spot in its mouth, which took me a while to figure out. Specter Knight battles an empowered version of Reize, one of the wandering travellers you’ll encounter on the overworld, which sees you dashing along and attacking from a series of rails while avoiding Reize’s fireballs and attacks (though I actually found this far easier than the last two final bosses). King Knight has to battle a giant mechanical king, which proved to be the most annoying final boss by far. This mech fires homing orbs at you, lasers that ricochet all over the arena, and tries to crush you and destroy the ground with its hands. You need to hop onto its hands (carefully, as touching them can hurt you) to shoulder barge into the jewels on the side of its head until the outer casing is destroyed. Then, you have to stay on its hands in a vast void, avoiding homing shots and spiralling into its exposed brain, which can be very frustrating even though it spits out hearts after a few hits.

Some familiar faces, allies, and NPCS show up as optional and surprise bosses!

In addition to this, as mentioned, you’ll encounter a few additional bosses on the overworld; these wandering travellers appear on the map (or in certain stages for some DLC stories) and challenge you to a fight, and include the would-be-swordsman Reize, the lighting-conjuring Phantom Striker, and a beefy version of Simon Belmont, Baz, complete with Vampire Killer whip. After being fleeced by the customers in the armor outpost shop, you’ll have a fight against the proprietor, Mister Hat, and you’ll even face off against the Battletoads at one point in a three-stage boss battle that sees you descending down a shaft, challenging the damnable Turbo Tunnel, and fighting all three at once to prove your worth. The DLC stories not only include the chance to battle Shovel Knight, but also Shield Knight in Specter of Torment and a handful of entirely new bosses in King of Cards, such as the Troupple King (who surrounds himself with Troupple Fish while you battle on a precarious little boat being careful not to fall in the deadly water) and the King Birder (who floats around a steadily claustrophobic arena shooting lasers as you desperately bash and twirl off the blocks that circle the walls). King Knight also has the added headache of having to challenge the Joustus Judges to Joustus, a card game that saps Shovel Knight of all its action and fun.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you battle through the game’s stages, you’ll pick-up health and pots to refill your item count (similar to the Hearts in Castlevania), and gold and jewels to add to your currency. The bigger the gem, the more money you’ll get, so it literally pays to explore all around, attacking walls to uncover jewels or treasure chests as you’ll find caches of sparkly gems or even a hidden musical scroll that you can sell to the bard in the village. You can buy (and find) meal tickets to increase your health, and also pay more money to increase the amount of ammo you have and purchase additional relics, such as the chalices that the Troupple King and his allies will fill with one-use power-ups to grant you invincibility or full health.

Shovel Knight can gain new abilities from relics, which Plague Knight can trade for better gear.

You can also acquire relics in the levels, usually by defeating mini bosses but also by buying them from Chester, who’s hidden in special treasure chests; these increase your versatility and allow you to access new areas in stages, encouraging replayability. At the cost of some ammo, you can fish in sparkly areas for bonus items, fire a projectile with the Flame Torch, render yourself briefly intangible to all harm (except lava) with the Phase Locket, attack airborne enemies with the Throwing Anchor, bash through dirt blocks with the Dust Knuckles, destroy all onscreen enemies with the War Horn, ride the Mobile Gear to reach higher areas, and dash through the air with the Propeller Dagger. In the armor outpost, you can also upgrade Shovel Knight’s shovel to make digging instantaneous, charge a more powerful swing, or send out a spark when at full health, and your armour to reduce the gold you lose, sacrifice ammo for more durability, or just look cool. All of these relics reappear in Plague of Shadows, but Plague Knight must trade them with Chester for his own weapons; Plague Knight has a magic meter that depletes as he uses stuff like the big bomb, smoke bomb, and the Staff of Surging but it will automatically refill over time. You can also increase his maximum health and magic meter, upgrade his outfit in the same way as Shovel Knight’s armour, and also acquire additional casings and powders for his bombs, and elements to his bomb burst jump. This allows you to toss bombs that leave a trail of fire or swirl around in a protective circle, toss them in an arch, or float through the air after a charged jump or even spin through enemies in a blaze, and you can also find (and buy) tonics to increase your health even further. While Plague Knight can also find his own set of musical scrolls, you’ll also need to find green Cipher Coins hidden in new areas of levels to fully upgrade Plague Knight’s repertoire.

Both Specter and King Knight have to earn their upgrades but only the king has to worry about Joustus.

Similarly, Specter Knight needs to find Red Skulls to access all of his “Curios”; after trading in for these, though, Specter Knight has to complete a short stage where he can only use the Curio to get past the enemies and obstacles (something that is repeated in King of Cards). These Curios allow him to throw a small scythe projectile, attack enemies up close with a swipe, regain health, or even target the nearest onscreen enemy regardless of hazards or the environment. Specter Knight can also find (or buy) “wilful wisps” to increase his health and Darkness meter, and can pay to upgrade his cloak to reduce the gold he loses from death, grind across all surfaces, or charge up his scythe attack, amongst other bonuses. Much of this is the same for King Knight, though he is somewhat handicapped as his upgrades and “Heirlooms” are at a much higher cost; you’ll need to spend both gold and Merit Medals to fully upgrade his health, magic, and armour, and these are earned not just from defeating enemies and finding chests but also winning games of Joustus. Chests, Chester, and victory in these card games will also net you additional Joustus cards (ranging from weak level one cards to more powerful, rarer level four cards) and I’d heavily advise buying Chester’s cheat cards to make the game easier on yourself. For an absolutely extortionate amount (30,0000 in total), you can also pay for some aesthetic paintjobs on the game’s presentation and environments in this mode, too.

Additional Features:
There are forty-five Achievements (known in-game as “Feats”) on offer in the main Shovel of Hope game, which range from finishing levels without taking damage, eating food, or collecting gold, defeating certain bosses without taking a hit or in certain ways, or full upgrading Shovel Knight and acquiring all of his relics and musical scrolls. An additional sixty Achievements are included in the three DLC packs, bringing the total up to 105, with many of these being repeats of those in Shovel of Hope (don’t take damage, finish the game, get all upgrades and such). Disappointingly, there are a great deal of 0G and 5G Achievements in the game, which is frustrating as things like beating all of the wandering travellers or uncovering hidden rooms should really net you more than nothing. Some of the hardest Achievements are best acquired in the New Game+ modes that you unlock for each story after completing the main game as you are charged with finishing the game without spending any money or acquiring any upgrades, but by far the hardest will ask you to finish the game without falling into bottomless pits or by destroying every checkpoint.

In addition to New Game+, you can battle head-to-head in Showdown or tackle extra challenges.

Shovel Knight also has a “body swap” feature that I think is to further customise the game for male and female players, and also comes with a co-op mode, though there are no Achievements and few benefits to playing with a friend; although you both share gold and have your own health bar, if one of you dies, it’ll cost health from the remaining player to respawn your partner. The game does warp the player who is lagging behind to the next area, which is good, but, similar to Contra (Konami, 1986), Shovel Knight is much harder with two players. After clearing each story, you unlock the aforementioned New Game+ (which lets you keep all the health, magic, gold, and upgrades you’ve acquired but delivers a tougher overall gaming experience), additional challenges for the Challenge Mode (where you must survive waves of enemies, perform tricky platforming tasks, collect gold, and many other varied tasks though, again, there are no Achievements linked to this mode), and extra music for the game’s sound test. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove includes the Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards DLC packs, all of which remix and repurpose the existing game’s levels to accommodate the new character’s abilities. The story, cutscenes, and dialogue are all changed as well, with many of the stories being prequels to the main game, and new areas, collectibles, and gameplay modes are accessible. Specter Knight, for example, doesn’t get an overworld map and must warp to each level from the Tower of Fate; King Knight gains a completely different overworld map, and an airship to ride around in. Beyond all the various story modes, there’s also a battle mode, Shovel Knight Showdown, a competitive fighting mode very much like Super Smash Bros. (HAL Laboratory, 1999) that sees you battle through a series of story-based fights on one of three difficulties (Easy, Medium, and Hard), with the story and opponents differing depending on which character you pick. You can also fight up to three computer-controlled opponents (or friends) in battles that range from stock, time, and gem-based fights in a variety of arenas with intractable hazards, elements, and items. Shovel Knight’s basic three-button gameplay doesn’t really translate that well into a 2D fighter but it’s a fun little distraction; though there aren’t any Achievements tied to this mode either, it’s probably quite fun with a few friends. There are also a huge number of cheat codes available for the game that will change it in bizarre ways, though they also disable Achievements, and numerous little side quests to keep you busy. For example, you need to hunt down all the collectibles, defeat every Joustus player (which includes a super tough final, final boss), and purchase every item to get full, 100% completion so there’s definitely a lot to keep you coming back for more.

The Summary:
I didn’t grow up playing the NES titles that Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove owes its existence to; I was playing the MSX, Spectrum, and Master System around that time instead, so I’m much more a fan of the 16-bit era of gaming, but I do enjoy a good retro throwback and Shovel Knight may very well be the best retro throwback out there. I went into it concerned that it would be “NES Hard” like games like the aforementioned Mega Man and Contra but, thankfully, it was much more in the same style as DuckTales and Castlevania in terms of difficulty, challenge, and presentation. Shovel Knight was a really good time, with loads to see, do, and collect across its many worlds and different gameplay modes; the titular knight is a fantastic modern icon and his 8-bit world is both familiar and incredibly unique in its presentation. His gameplay is tight as a drum; there are some frustrating moments and deaths but they’re all down to poor luck or skill on your part rather than dodgy mechanics or unfair difficulty spikes, and it’s extremely gratifying mastering his pogo skill to conquer tricky areas. The additional story modes are a fantastic addition as well; remixing and redressing the music, levels, and mechanics was a novel idea and each character plays in similar, but different, ways so you can easily get to grips with them and adapt to the new layouts and gameplay styles. They expand upon both the gameplay and the story by fleshing out the lore and characters of this world, repurposing enemies into NPCs and presenting levels in ways that challenge your familiarity with the game. The only blight against the game are the numerous 0G Achievements, which just seem like a complete waste of time to me; why even bother programming them in if you get nothing for your efforts? Also, I could have done without the Joustus gameplay of King of Cards; I dislike card-based games at the best of times and it was easily the least fun part of the game. These issues are minor, though, and the package is more than worth it for the other characters and the sheer amount of gameplay, content, and variety on offer in the remainder of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. Fans of the NES-era of gaming should be well at home with this little package and I was extremely pleased with the overall game, and all of the replayability on offer here, so I would definitely recommend it, especially to fans of retrogames.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Were you a fan of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove? Did you enjoy Shovel Knight’s NES-style mechanics and abilities or did you struggle to get to grips with his pogo-like attack? Which of the Order of No Quarter was your favourite and why, and which boss did you struggle against? Did you enjoy the DLC story modes? Which of the three was your favourite? Were you a fan of Joustus or, like me, did you struggle to adapt to the card-based gameplay? Did you ever get all of the Achievements in the game and were you also annoyed at the amount of 0G Achievements on offer here? What are your favourite games from the 8-bit era, or your favourite retro throwback titles, and would you like to see another Shovel Knight game in the future? Whatever your thoughts on Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, sign up to leave your thoughts below or drop a comment on my social media post.

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