It’s scary to think that Shovel Knight – one of the most popular indie games of all time – debuted in 2014. The year Wii U still tried to get a bright future, long before Keiji Inafune and his Mighty No. 9 made millions of people lose faith in the appropriateness of crowdfunding. In other words, long ago it was. But instead of doing something else, Yacht Club Games continued to engage in the universe it created, which became a real sensation. As a result, the original, now called the Shovel of Hope, received several additional campaigns – Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment and, in 2019, King of Cards. Last, along with the Shovel Knight Showdown fighting game, became the final DLC for the long-playing platformer, which tells the outgoing decade, “Adios”. In the future – the sequel Shovel Knight Dig will come out, but for now, let’s talk about the last gift from developers.
Like previous campaigns, King of Cards was released primarily for existing fans of the game. If for some reason you still have not played the original, then you do not need to read this text – it is better to look for the collection of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which includes the vanilla version, plus all the add-ons. It is available on all possible platforms, including PS Vita and 3DS. If you have already familiarized yourself with our Knight of Shovels, but have not found it interesting, then King of Cards is unlikely to change your mind.
King of Cards, like previous extensions, seems like a full sequel. The main role is played by the Knight King of the same name, who does not at all look like the protagonist Shovel of Hope. If you are concerned about a (very bad) story, then King of Cards is a prequel that talks about the King Knight even before he joined the order of villains. The whole game is a kind of comedy full of humorous characters and witty dialogs. In it we learn more about the narcissistic and arrogant Knight, who is waiting for about the same journey as the Knight of the Shovel. That is, all the same style of Super Mario Bros. 3, all the same additional bosses and secret moves – all for which we love the franchise.
Level themes will be familiar: all the same different color palettes and the same classic concepts. In general, the game brings a certain nostalgia of the distant 2014: we see many already familiar places and enemies, but really new locations are in no hurry to appear. In some ways, King of Cards is a tearful farewell to this beloved saga, reminiscence. This is another reason this add-on will not attract new fans. It is for those who have been there from the start.
But do not think that Yacht Club Games have cheated by repackaging an old game under a new name. Despite the impregnations of antiquity, many elements of King of Cards are new. For example, a protagonist who is not much like the “original” Knight. His standard attack is a horizontal spurt that reminds me of Wario’s movement from the half-forgotten Wario Land series or even Celeste, where, however, our heroine was not involved in violence. “King” is a faster hero who fights completely different from the others: he loves to move his shoulders over enemies and spin in the air, striking from above. The levels themselves are shorter here, and, as usual, they are ideal for this particular character with his unique skills. I will say the word “unique” again – in relation to the unexpected addition, the Joustus card game, which is part of the campaign.
In the world of King of Cards, everyone is obsessed with Joustus, which, in truth, is very hard to explain. Following the precepts of the original, the DLC does without a long tutorial, but if in the first level of the first part the developers were able to explain all the laws of their title in a simple language of gameplay, then this will not work with a card game. Result: irritation and anger at the game, which is not so easy to master. Fortunately, like the Witcher gwent, Joustus is optional. Unless, of course, you like to complete everything 100%.
You can talk about King of Cards for a long time, but I just don’t like to shake the air. This latest addition will be another reason to return to an outstanding platformer, and everyone who has already acquired Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove will do so. For the rest, nothing will change.
But that is not all. Together with King of Cards, another addition came out – Shovel Knight Showdown. And now it does not look like anything. Instead of modifying existing content in some way (like what Nintendo did with New Super Luigi U ), Yacht Club Games decided to amuse the fans by creating … a fighting game. Yes, that’s right: imagine that Shovel Knight crossed with Super Smash Bros.
In Shovel Knight Showdown you can play with friends as the protagonists and antagonists, but I can not call this addition anything but a fan service. A toy from the category “what if …”, it tries in vain to pass for a full spin-off, but it is hindered by incompletely developed mechanics and primitive gameplay. But I cannot deny that this is a great bonus.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards and Shovel Knight: Showdown are a great gift for fans of the classic pixel gaming, but they will not be able to attract new adherents of the shovel religion. The developer of Yacht Club Games took as a basis all that for which we loved the original, and presented us with a new campaign, which can easily be called the most witty, or simply the most elaborate. But at heart it’s the same Shovel Knight. Whether it is good or bad, decide for yourself.
Shovel Knight King of Cards ends the original saga of the Shovel of Hope and brings further great gameplay and platform elements, but likely won’t lure in many new fans.
Shovel Knight Showndown is a fun twist to spend an afternoon with friends with, but sadly lacks necessary mechanics to keep on giving.
King of Cards 7.5/10