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May 23, 2017 / Jett

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows Review


Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows is the first piece of downloadable content for Shovel Knight. This time, you take on the Enchantress and the Order of No Quarter as Plague Knight, one of the bosses from the original game. While it uses the same levels, the experience of playing as Plague Knight gives the game a different, more challenging, and arguably not as fun game.

The setup for Plague of Shadows is actually quite clever. Plague Knight is in the midst of developing the ultimate potion, but he needs to steal the essence of each knight in order to do so. There are elements of the story and overworld that are adjusted accordingly to make this work, such as changing the town into Plague Knight’s underground lair. I appreciate the effort to make this effort not feel like Shovel Knight with a new protagonist.

Where the change is most dramatic is in the way that Plague Knight handles. He attacks by throwing bombs as if he were Super Mario throwing fireballs. As the game progresses, you’ll get a number of different ways to adjust that primary attack, such as the ability to change the trajectory of the bombs, to making them home in on nearby enemies.

He also moves through the air very differently. Unlike Shovel Knight, Plague Knight can’t bounce on his enemies Scrooge McDuck style. Instead, he’s given a double jump, along with the ability to explode upwards for a third mid-air hop. While it’s cool to have the ability to zip around the world in that manner, it does take a lot more finesse. At first, it was really tough to adjust from Shovel Knight’s bouncing style to this. It gets better with time, but it’s also where I ran into my biggest issue with the game.

Plague Knight is a frail guy. When he gets hit, he gets pushed back quite a bit. This caused me to die a lot. Classic Shovel Knight is tough, but I never got frustrated to the point where I didn’t want to play anymore. Plague of Shadows, however, pushed me to the brink almost every time I played it. There’s a power-up that you can get to mitigate this, but it then stops you from using another magic ability. I wish that the game was a bit more forgiving in this regard, as it feels unnecessarily punishing.

The other gripe I have with Plague of Shadows is that the worlds themselves could have been tuned better for Plague Knight. There are parts of the game that used to be tough that became weirdly easy with Plague Knight, while other easy parts became much harder. Would have preferred a few more changes to the worlds to make them flow a bit better.

Plague of Shadows is very cool conceptually and in a lot of ways, is done really well. Playing as Plague Knight gives the game a very different feel, which is generally a good thing. There are quirks in his design that drive me nuts, but I think there’s more good than bad here. As a free update to the original game, you can’t go wrong, even if you’d prefer to play Shovel Knight in its original form.

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