Shovel Knight first made its console debut on the Wii U, and now it is back on yet another Nintendo platform with its release on the newly-launched Nintendo Switch. For about $25, players can pick up Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which includes the original Shovel Knight, along with its two expansions: Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment.
Those that are unfamiliar with Shovel Knight can read our review of the Wii U version here. In short, the base game is superb – an excellent callback to the 8-bit era. The game features a mix of mechanics from Mega Man, Castlevania, and more classic titles, culminating in an experience that is perfect mechanically, and engrossing thematically.
Specter of Torment, the new expansion pack, differs in a few ways from the earlier expansion. As opposed to Plague of Shadows, where players simply used a new character to traverse the same levels as the base game, Specter of Torment features an entirely new campaign to explore. The game features all-new levels and varied boss battles (although most are from the base game) that will provide Shovel Knight fans with about five hours of new content to play through.
Specter of Torment is stellar. The expansion still looks, feels, and sounds like a classic 8-bit game and often features much of the same challenge we’ve come to love from Shovel Knight. Specter Knight has the ability to zigzag across objects and enemies. This ability feels fluid and rewarding, especially when hitting platforms successfully in some of the game’s tower-climbing areas. Combat also feels incredible. Landing multiple diagonal hits in succession on an enemy, all while never touching the ground, is not only a quick way to skillfully take down a boss, but feels really rewarding in itself.
The new expansion features several new features for longtime Shovel Knight fans as well. There are new challenges to try out, which allow players to complete certain areas in the game with parameters and constraints that can make a level significantly more challenging. One challenge, for example, had me complete a level without fighting a single enemy. The game also features multiplayer, a mode that is both hectic and fun if you’ve got a second player around.
Unfortunately, it seems Switch users are getting the short end of the stick, however, in terms of price. Although Specter of Torment launches first on the Switch, those that own Shovel Knight on other platforms will receive the expansion for free in April. As a result, Specter of Torment comes at about a $10 cost while other gamers will get it as a free update. Those that own Shovel Knight on another platform already can pick up just Specter of Torment on the Switch for $10, but this charge still makes it seem like Nintendo users are paying a “new platform tax.”
As a package, Treasure Trove is an excellent way to expand a newly-formed Switch library with a wonderful 8-bit platforming package. Shovel Knight and its two expansions feature expertly crafted levels and mechanics, as well as music and visuals that will put a smile on your face. Though it is unfortunate that Switch owners are forced to put an extra $10 down to play a “free” expansion, those that do choose to pick up the package will find it well worth playing, no matter the price.