WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This article may reveal major plot points, especially considering the game had either been released recently or not in specific countries yet.
Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Yacht Club Games. The game was funded via Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and was initially released for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U in June 2014. Ports for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One were released in April 2015, and a Nintendo Switch port was released in March 2017.
The game is a homage to classic 8-bit games from the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Shovel of Hope
Shovel Knight and his partner Shield Knight were two of the best treasure hunters of the lands. One day, the two traveled to the Tower of Fate looking for an amulet that can revive the dead, but during their adventure Shield Knight is lost to the tower and presumed dead, completely breaking Shovel Knight's spirit and forcing him into retire.
Some time later, the evil Echantress takes over the Tower of Fate and conquers the lands with her Order of No Quarter, a group of 8 elite knights loyal to the Enchatress. Shovel Knight comes out of retirement to battle the Order of No Quarter and the Enchantress in hopes of bringing back Shield Knight, along the way he's faced by his rival Black Knight.
After defeating all the Order of No Quarter members, Shovel Knight learns from Black Knight that the Enchantress is actually Shield Knight corrupted by black magic from the amulet of death. This only motivates Shovel Knight to go to the Tower of Fate even more.
Shovel Knight fights the Enchantress, during the fight Shield Knight is returned to normal but the Enchantress becomes self-aware and keeps attacking. The two knights destroy her once and for all as the Tower of Fate begins to crumble. Black Knight rescues Shovel Knight as Shield Knight is forced to stay behind so the others can escape.
In the post-credits scene, Shield Knight is shown to have survived the collapse of the tower and returns to Shovel Knight's side.
Plague of Shadows
Plague Knight is a mad alchemist planning to brew the "Serum Supernus" ultimate potion with his assistant Mona, installing a secret base behind the village so the two and their small group of followers can work on the potion. For the Serum Supernus, Plague Knight will need the essences of powerful knights and a witch, so he joined the Order of No Quarter so that he could get close to the other members and the Enchanterss and secretely steal their essences. Thought Plague Knight claims the potion is meant to make him almighty powerful, the real reason behind his plans is so he'll become worthy of Mona's affection. He also takes dancing lessons in secret but whenever he's around Mona he's too shy to dance.
During his quest, the Dark Knight mistakenly believes that Plague Knight thinks of Mona as a meaningless assistant and is interested in someone else. Mona overhears this and abandons Plague Knight, this only makes him more desperate to brew the Serum Supernus. With all but the Enchantress' essences obtained, Plague Knight raids the Tower of Fate. The Enchantress casually gives Plague Knight her essences, at that time Mona arrives telling Plague Knight that Black Knight explained her the misunderstanding, but the Serum Supernus becomes unstable and creates a giant Plague Knight-like monster.
Plague Knight defeats the monster and stabilizes the potion, but decides he no longer needs it to win Mona's heart. Mona agrees and suggests using the potion as an explosive to destroy the Tower of Fate. Everyone sees the explosion and thinks of the alchemists as heroes, and Plague Knight finally gets the courage to dance with Mona.
Specter of Torment
Two Knights, Donovan and Luan, are treasure hunters who set their eyes on getting the Amulet of Death at the Tower of Fate. When the two find the amulet they are confronted by Shield Knight who insists the amulet must be destroyed. Donovan assumes Shield Knight wants the amulet for herself and recklessly attacks her, causing the floor they're standing on to collapse and everyone to fall into the pits of the tower. Dovonan is left gravely injured and finds Luan dead. Just as he's about to succumb to his wounds, Donovan is confronted by the Enchantress and turned into an undead zombie under the name "Spectre Knight". The Enchantress puts a curse on the amulet, Spectre Knight now must be her servant and find eight knights to swear loyalty to the Enchatress and help her conquer the lands, if he succeeds Specter Knight will be allowed to use the amulet to return to his mortal form.
Spectre Knight travels the lands looking for powerful knights to recruit into the Enchantress' Order of no Quarter, calling the attention of Black Knight who figures out Spectre Knight is Donovan. After recruiting three knights, a young warrior named Reize attacks Spectre Knight and the Enchantress turns him into her servant as well. After recruiting seven knights Spectre Knight learns from Black Knight that the Enchatress is actually Shield Knight corrupted by dark magic. Enraged, Spectre Knight swears to destroy the Enchantress to get revenge on Shield Knight for causing his and Luan’s deaths.
The Enchantress quickly finds out that Spectre Knight plans to rebel and turns Reize into a big monster to attack him. Spectre Knight defeats the monster but leaves Reize almost dead, desperate, Spectre Knight offers to be the Enchantress' final knight in exchange of sparing Reize's life. The Enchantress is confused to why Spectre Knight is defending a random kid but nevertheless agrees, allowing Spectre Knight to use the amulet to save Reize's life. Now with the Order of no Quarter formed, the Enchatress swiftly conquers the land and Spectre Knight is forced to serve the Enchantress despite his hatred towards her.
In the post-credits scene it is revealed that Reize is actually Luan’s son.
King of Cards
The story follows King Knight, a fake ruler who wants to set out to defeat the three kings and judges of Joustus, a card game which most of characters have been playing. Doing so will earn him the title “King of Cards”. Unfortunately for King Knight, he doesn’t happen to have any Joustus cards to play Joustus with, but he stumbles upon Specter Knight in the Plains. King Knight defeats Specter Knight, who gives King Knight a deck of cards, giving him the ability to go up against any Joustus player.
King Knight enters a house of Joustus where he first learns to play Joustus and then bests every contestant in that house. Before King Knight leaves, a rooster and a bard informs him that they want to help him achieve the title. King Knight is led to a plane known as the Glidewing. King Knight later enters Pridemoor Keep where he meets King Pridemoor. Pridemoor then assembles a suit and then fights King Knight. King Pridemoor is eventually defeated and then is invited to the Glidewing.
When the two kings return to the Glidewing, King Knight’s mom is immediately attached to King Pridemoor’s presence, much to King Knight’s disgust. After the Troople King is defeated he is welcomed to the Glidewing.
After King Knight’s fight with King Birder it is revealed that King Birder is just a normal Birder with a voice from the Enchantress’ Magic. It is also revealed that Joustus was created by the Enchantress. The Glidewing later invades the Tower of Fate so that King Knight makes a final stand. King Knight defeats the Enchantress, but the Enchantress knocks King Knight back and fuses King Knight, the Troople Acolyte, and the Birder together and makes a giant robot that resembles a king.
After the battle the three Kings are freed and hang onto an edge of the tower. King Knight is given two choices, help everyone up or let everyone hang and become Pridemoor’s king. King Knight lets everyone fall off the Tower of Fate. King Knight’s first decrees was to end Joustus for good implying that his crown is the only one that matters.
In the post-credits scene, King is seen sitting in Pridemoor’s throne with his mom and King Pridemoor watching him. Seeing how he betrayed everyone including his own mom, King Knight’s mom lets King Pridemoor stay in King Knight’s room in his former home. Pridemoor and Mom leave behind a wall. King Knight later sits quitely seeing how he’s now King of Pridemoor and later becomes the easiest boss.
After the ‘The End’ screen, Shovel Knight enters the room. King Knight jumps up and the screen goes black.
Why It Rocks
- The game is inspired by many classic retro games like Mega Man, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, etc. It shares many components from those games yet it has its own identity and feels unique.
- The game pays homage to those old-school games, and yet actively avoids the design flaws those games suffered from, such as:
- It looks like an 8-bit game, but the sprites, animations, and backgrounds are far more detailed than an average NES game.
- The soundtrack by Jake "virt" Kaufman doesn't restrict itself by limited sound channels.
- You don't have limited lives nor game overs, therefore levels aren't filled with cheap death traps and have much more frequent checkpoints.
- There are proper save points instead of passwords or having to beat the entire game in one sitting.
- Bosses aren't designed around trial-and-error. While the bosses are challenging and can take a few tries, they can all feasibly be defeated without having to first memorize their attack patterns by dying over and over.
- Although Shovel Knight has to save a love interest (in this case Shield Knight), she's definitively not a damsel-in-distress and even fights the final boss.
- Simple plot yet it feels engaging and interesting to follow.
- Since you don't have limited lives, when you die you lose three bags of treasure that are left floating nearby, if you can reach that point of the level you can grab those bags and recover the lost gold; on the other hand if you die again before reaching the treasure bags they vanish forever while also losing three more bags on top of that. This creates a risk-and-reward system that properly punishes dying without forcing the player to restart the whole level again. How much gold each bag has also depends on your total gold.
- You can visit towns where you can buy upgrades for your character.
- In addition to the main levels, there are several mini-levels and mini-bosses you can play to get more treasure.
- Clever level design teaches the player what they need to know through gameplay without needing tutorials just like in classic Mega Man.
- Right before the final boss, you play a "Battle Royale" where you must defeat all bosses in a row, recovering health and magic in between each round. Once you beat the Battle Royale as Shovel Knight you have the option of rescuing the other bosses or leaving them behind.
- Several DLC content that include entirely new campaigns for some of the main bosses such as Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight. Each of them play slightly different from Shovel Knight with their own gimmicks so levels are redesigned to accomodate their mechanics, and all of the campaigns are included in the Treasure Trove edition of the game for free. Each campaign is given a subtitle based on the player character:
- Shovel Knight's Shovel of Hope is the main story.
- Plague Knight's Plague of Shadows takes place at the same time as Shovel of Hope so you'll occasionally see Shovel Knight going through his own quest and even fight him as a boss fight. It's also the only DLC campaign that's available for free outside of the Treasure Trove edition.
- Specter Knight's Specter of Torment is a prequel to the other campaigns.
- King Knight's King of Cards is another prequel and the ultimate sendoff to Treasure Trove.
- Certain ports of the game contain cool easter eggs, like a secret battle with the Battletoads in the Xbox One version or with Kratos from God of War in the PlayStation versions.
- There exists over 300 codes like the one that replaces certain names in the game to "butt", making the game more funny!
- Multiplayer modes! There is a battle mode called Showdown with all the bosses playable and co-op. It can also give you a feel of how the bosses without campaigns could play in their campaign.
- After beating all four campaigns, you are treated to a Congratulations screen showing you completed all campaigns.
- Even though the game doesn't use artificial difficulty to extend its length like most NES games did, it still is about as short as an average NES game. Each character's campaign takes on average 3 to 5 hours each.
- There are times when the treasure bags that fly away after you die end up in an area impossible to reach without dying again.
- Activating special abilities is done by pressing Attack + Up by default. This can cause you to accidentally use them in the middle of a jump and get you killed because they interrupt your jump. You can fix this by going into the options and mapping special abilities to another button.
- Plague Knight can either be a bit hard to control or overpowered. Meaning he’s slippery but you can save yourself so easily, especially if you memorized the levels in Shovel of Hope.
- King Knight’s ending, while clever, can be a bit mean spirited. At least his mom wasn’t there.
Shovel Knight received critical acclaim both from critics and gamers alike. The game has become an example that Crowdfunding can be viable and that old school styled games still have a place in modern gaming. The character Shovel Knight became iconic among indie games and has made several cameo appearances in games such as Yooka-Laylee.