Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove Review

Years have passed since this indie darling first wowed the world, and now Shovel Knight has graced almost every platform. As a series of thank you notes to their fans, Yacht Club Games have continued to add to the game with free updates for owners of the main game, even as those additional campaigns have blossomed into their own standalone titles. To this end, all owners of Shovel Knight before a certain period will be upgraded to Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove – a collection of three campaigns and challenges – though those with a Nintendo Switch get a head start this month.

In the bundle, you of course have the now classic Shovel Knight, now with the added subtitle “Shovel of Hope”. It combines the pogo attacks from Duck Tales with the level design conventions found in classic Mega Man, all presented with a retro aesthetic. Yet despite the intentionally dated look, there was a lot of love and care that went into making those pixels stand out.

From the Introduction stage, to each of the Order of No Quarter levels, and up until the final confrontation with the Enchantress, Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope is a fantastically designed platforming experience with bags of character. Every level has a new obstacle to overcome, fully utilising Shovel Knight’s abilities.

It’s not just a selection of levels present, as there are lots of things to discover – towns, shops, mini-games, extra bosses, and even whole levels. It’s a shovel full of classic gaming goodness that anyone who likes platformers ought to give a try.

It’s all accompanied by a stellar soundtrack by Jake Kaufman (who has worked on WayForward’s Shantae franchise among other games). One of the few gaming soundtracks to have endured in the consciousness of gamers in recent memory, it still holds up well in 2017, three years after its initial release. It’s catchy enough to emulate the classics of the 8-bit era and blend in well with the game.

Yacht Club Games have even added a few things to Treasure Trove. Firstly, there is now a Body Swap mode, inspired by an episode of Adventure Time and the concept behind Ms. Pacman. You can now select the gender of all the main characters, ranging from Shovel Knight, the Order of No Quarter, and even the final boss. It’s a very inclusive addition that’s as customisable as you’d want it to be and the new sprites are well designed.

Cooperative mode is now available for all non-handheld platforms, no longer requiring the Shovel Knight amiibo for Wii U. While the levelling up mechanic is still amiibo exclusive for the time being, Yacht Club Games have included the Shovel Knight Fairy to accompany your character across three games. It doesn’t actually do anything major, but it at least highlights any treasure you might have missed.

As a fan of the initial game, I was pretty excited to see that the support for the game would continue with meaningful content; with all campaigns included in the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove being made available separately as well. There are three campaigns available for the collection thus far, with a fourth one featuring King Knight as a playable character on the horizon and a 4-player Battle Mode still to come this year.

Plague of Shadows is Plague Knight’s DLC, sporting a new character with an explosive move-set. Differences in level design to accompany his abilities better keep the game fresh. Plague Knight is somewhat difficult to control, but has an array of potions to be created, such as one to temporarily increase his life bar. As a side-story, it’s a welcome addition, even if Plague Knight’s abilities take some getting used to.

The marquee mode in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is the brand new prequel campaign: “Specter of Torment”. Unlike Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment feels like its own game with heavily redesigned levels, new enemies, new boss battle variants, and even a meaningful backstory showing how Specter Knight came into the service of The Enchantress. Jake Kaufman has even remixed the entire soundtrack to keep the game feeling like a new experience. In short, it’s wonderful.

Specter Knight controls wonderfully, though his aerial dash slash might take some getting used to. However, by finding red skulls in levels and trading them in at the fortress, Specter Knight can gain access to some really powerful sub-weapons, including the ability to heal. He can also channel his inner skateboarder by using his scythe to grind on rails.

What’s Good:

  • Stuffed full with three great campaigns
  • Masterful soundtracks from Jake Kaufman
  • Spectre Knight’s campaign feels like a true prequel
  • Cooperative mode now available for all without needing an amiibo

What’s Bad:

  • Plague Knight has a steep learning curve
  • Having to wait for King Knight’s campaign
  • Retro aesthetic may put off some people

While the original game was a fabulous romp, the Treasure Trove collection is more than worthy of investing some time into. Anyone who already has the original will obtain the upgraded package for free, but if bought separately, each of the three released campaigns should keep you entertained with great platforming that’s full of charm. With more stuff coming in the next year, the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is worth its weight in gold.

Score: 9/10

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch