NS Review – Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (eShop)
After what has felt like a century (and is only realistically a few months), Yacht Club Games have released the long-awaited DLC pack for Shovel Knight, which is available now across all platforms. For all those that are unfamiliar with Shovel Knight, you can find my review of the main game here, or just go and buy the game (you won’t regret it – I promise). For now, let’s tackle the new update and what it brings to the table.
Narratively, the story is set in the same world (and even on the same world map) as the original game. However, in a turn of events, the playable character and “hero” of the story is Plague Knight, one of the bosses of the original tale. The basics are that Plague Knight betrays the Order of No Quarter to collect several essences so that he can create the Potion of Ultimate Power. I won’t ruin anything more, but suffice to say that seeing the world through the eyes of a villain is a very different experience meaning areas you hadn’t previously seen can be explored.
Plague of Shadows feels almost like an entirely new game in its gameplay. Plague Knight controls very differently to his garden tool-wielding counterpart, and is a fair bit less predictable in many ways. You might be retracing a lot of the same areas that you have before, but Plague Knight’s double jump and bomb-assisted leaps make navigating them either more fun or more dangerous (depending on the level), and the same goes for the bosses; often I have found myself dying after mistakenly activating the bomb-assist at the wrong point and flying through the air to my doom. Simply put, the biggest thing to overcome in the DLC is to change your thinking of how to move; for instance, you can’t attack downwards any more without a bomb-assist, so you have to rely on dropping bombs from the air (which slightly stagger your descent) to survive.
That’s not all that is new though, as hidden throughout the world are Cypher Coins that can be traded to unlock new abilities, but some of these are place in devious locations that are either hard to find or result in instant death if you make the slightest mistake (like hovering over pits or spikes). Speaking of abilities, almost all of Plague Knight’s upgrades are inches bombs, giving him different effects and explosive details (some of which are tremendous fun). If you add to this a whole new set of Feats for Plague Knight to overcome, and a Challenge Mode for both playable characters, the end result is a huge amount of content for a free update (which strangely also causes the game to take up less space). It’s evident that Yacht Club Games were setting out to spoil us.
This game is, unsurprisingly, full of the same retro goodness that made up the main game. All of the beautiful retro graphical stylings are present and correct, and the new characters range from the bizarre to the adorable. The levels are pretty much the same in terms of all aesthetic details, with all the hidden passages that you can only reach as Plague Knight designed to fit into each level seamlessly (which I’m sure was the intention). The new music of the game follows the same exquisite chip tune route that the game is well known for, and once again has a couple of standout, wonderfully catchy songs in its repertoire.
So, now that the Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows update is here, how does it actually fare (both on its own and against the gigantic triumph of the main game)? The answer is alarmingly well. The DLC feels comfortable and familiar enough to reignite feelings caused by the original but is different and challenging enough to feel like a unique adventure. Even though I personally prefer Shovel Knight’s jaunt, the whole adventure is an incredible triumph of design and Yacht Club Games have undoubtedly proven that lightning can strike twice. Also, it’s free, so if you already have Shovel Knight you honestly have no reason to not at least try it.
Will you be getting the Plague of Shadows DLC? Or do you already have it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@reuthegamer).