Written By: Mitchell Booth
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, PSVita, Wii U and Switch
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is a fast-paced and agile take on Yacht Club’s already brilliant Shovel Knight, taking place before the events featuring our shovel-wielding hero. This expansion sees you playing as Specter Knight, an adversary from the original game who has been tasked with finding and defeating the bosses from Shovel Knight in a familiar yet different way.
Specter of Torment is a much more focused game, getting you into the action quicker than ever before, doing away with the map featured in the original and the previous expansion, Plague Of Shadows. You pick a level based on the Knight you wish to face, while the short boss encounter’s found on the original games overworld return as hidden areas in Specter Knight’s lair. The story, however, is told through flashbacks that occur after certain levels, greatly expanding what we know of this world and the tragic events that kickstart the main game.
Specter Knight as a character is different to Shovel Knight in that he is far more agile with his quick attacks and faster movement. His key ability is a lunge attack, allowing him to quickly jump to his enemies across a short distance, fundamentally changing how the platforming functions. He can also climb specific walls for a short time, and use his scythe as a skateboard on certain on rails. All of the gameplay changes mean the game is built for Shovel Knight veterans, adding an extra layer of difficulty in the traversal of levels by giving it a unique feel compared to the original game.
I have very few complaints if any to make about how the game plays, it achieves everything it sets out to accomplish. How Specter Knight controls is especially rewarding as he grinds, climbs and swings his weapon adding to the excitement as you learn to master his vicious style. However sometimes you can easily misjudge where he will lunge and fall to his death, it’s a fault easily made if timed poorly making the player feel as though the game was at fault.
Spells return, from a boomerang scythe to a huge charge across the screen. Unlocking these requires finding Red Skulls found in every level, much like the musical sheets from Shovel Knight. When you buy a Spell, you are taken to a small level on how to use them. It’s a better solution, making you more familiar with the spell before using them in the actual levels.
All previous levels and bosses return but Specter Knight’s unique traversal dramatically changing the levels in dynamic ways. Polar Knight’s Stranded Ship level has rails to grind, while Propeller Knight’s Flying Machine is very focused on his lunge attack for clearing gaps in the level. This makes for a very exciting take on the levels, without feeling like rehashed content.
Much like Shovel Knight, Specter Knight looks reminiscent of the games that inspired it but plays like a modern side-scroller. The aesthetic is perfect for a game returning to the 8-Bit era while being far more advanced than they could ever have dreamed. The audio is simply fantastic, from the exceptionally catchy 8-bit tunes inspired by games such as mega man to the sounds of spells and attacks.
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is an update to an already masterpiece of a game, placing it in an exciting new direction. It’s shorter than the original, yet every minute playing feels just as good, if not better.
9 out of 10 “Amazing”
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is available as a stand-alone game or with the Shovel Knight Treasure Trove, which includes the original and Plague Knight DLC. It’s currently out on the Nintendo Switch and PC on April 5.
The game ran perfectly on Nintendo’s new console, although at 720p resolution which has since been updated to 1080p. It didn’t detract from the experience in any way. It’s a must have for every Switch owner as the library is very small at the moment. I’ve played it for about 10 Hours on Nintendo Switch and PC, finishing all the in-game content minus achievements.