Game: Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platform(s): PC, Mac, 3DS, Wii U, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: Spring 2017
Price: Free! (kinda)
When the original Shovel Knight was released back in 2013, it garnered a whole lot of attention because of its style. For those unfamiliar with Shovel Knight, the “style” I’m referring to would be the similarities, both in look and gameplay mechanics that Shovel Knight has to platformers of the 8-bit era like Megaman, and Super Mario Brothers.
When Yacht Club first launched the Kickstarter campaign for Shovel Knight which it hit in no time, the many stretch goals promised various campaigns for the Knights that the protagonist would face on his adventure. The first of which was Plague Knight. That campaign, in particular, fell flat for me, the mechanics behind playing as the alchemist Knight were diffrent but not inherently good. I was hesitant to try Specter of Torment because of this, but it is without a doubt worth it. It’s no Shovel Knight 2, but it is pretty damn good.
The story of Specter of Torment takes place prior to the events of Shovel Knight. As Specter Knight, the player will travel to new variations of familiar levels to fight and gather together the members of The Order of No Quater. The evil alliance of knights that our shovel-wielding hero will one day defeat. At diffrent points in Specter Knight’s adventure flashback sequences recall how Specter Knight became the ghostly knight and fell into the service of the Enchantress.
Much like Plague Knight, Specter Knight plays in his own unique ways. He can use his scythe not only as a weapon but as a mean to traverse the environment, propelling himself forward by slashing throw certain objects in the environment like lanterns, as well as enemies. He can also run up most walls for shorter distances. This mechanic most reminded me of Ninja Gaiden for the SNES. Specter Knight is also confirmed as a cool dude based on his ability to grind on rails in multiple levels using his scythe.
For those that have played either Shovel Knight or its first Plague of Shadows DLC, the first big change you might notice is the lack of an overworld map. Specter of Torment does not feature the Mario 3 style map leading you to each Knights domain. Instead of this Specter Knight simply chooses which Knight he will face next and is transported via a magic mirror, the whole level select screen feels a lot more Megaman inspired in this regard. In between levels you’ll be transported back to the Enchantress’ tower where you can buy new armor, health or darkness upgrades you may have missed in a level. A special vendor will also sell you new trinkets which give abilities like ranged attacks and self-healing in exchange for red skulls rather than treasure. There are ten of these skulls to be found in each level.
Specter of Torment adds some new gameplay elements to an already great game. It’s available now for free to anyone who owns the base game. If you’ve just picked up a Nintendo Switch, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is available for $25 and includes both Specter of Torment and Plague of Shadows. While Specter Knight’s adventure isn’t quite the sequel fans might be wanting it is well put together, fun experience. I’d recommend it to any fans of the 8-bit era, even if they haven’t played Shovel Knight before.
Score: 8 out of 10