By Jordan Boyd
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment fits right at home on the Nintendo Switch. It retains so much of what made the original Shovel Knight great while giving players an entirely different character in the Shovel Knight universe to control, alongside a challenging new campaign.
The game is about Specter Knight’s quest to gather the Order of No Quarter, the group of knights you face off against in Shovel Knight’s campaign. The game acts as a prequel to Shovel Knight. While you hunt down the eight knights you’ll be given small gameplay sections that’ll reveal Specter Knight’s background and how he came to serve under The Enchantress.
Fans of Shovel Knight’s lore should be pleased with Specter Knight’s short but sweet tale of loss, tragedy, and redemption. The game has a good balance of drama and comedy throughout as well that keeps things interesting. If you’ve played any of the other entries you should feel right at home with this one.
If you don’t already know the developer, Yacht Club Games, has planned on releasing three campaigns based on the Order of No Quarter. The first was based on Plague Knight, the second is Specter Knight and the third upcoming campaign will be King Knight. Each knight was voted on by the game’s Kickstarter backers.
Specter Knight’s powers are many, and more unique when compared to his predecessors. Specter Knight can run up walls for short periods and he can use enemies to launch himself towards hard to reach areas. Learning to execute his movement and abilities is tough, but extremely rewarding experience.
The game is challenging but it never punished me enough where I got too frustrated. Completing the campaign unlocks new game plus mode. In this mode Specter Knight’s “Will”, another name for his health, is replaced by a very long “Darkness” bar, or a long mana bar that acts as a timer dropping continuously throughout each level, as well as when you use skills and every time you get hit by enemies. It requires a ton of micromanagement and players looking for an even tougher challenge after the main campaign should be very pleased with this additional mode.
There are red skulls to collect in each mission that allows the player to buy skills that can be used on the fly like healing, time slowing, strong attacks, etc. The game also has a cool way of showing players how to use these skills, when you buy them you start a tutorial that shows you how to use that said skill.
The game also features a challenge mode that puts your skills with Specter Knight to the test. The mode also allows you to go back and fight each boss. It didn’t take me too long to complete the challenge mode in its entirety but it’s a good distraction for any completionist.
The only issue I had with Specter Knight is fighting his sometimes uncooperative mechanics at first. Specter Knight always launches himself towards an enemy when he’s in the air, there’s no neutral air attack. This caused me to accidentally kill myself on many occasions throughout my time with the game. It’s a small gripe and it ultimately made me change up my playstyle throughout, but it was still frustrating sometimes nonetheless.
Specter Knight, in my mind, is the most reminiscent of the classic Metroidvania NES classics when compared to each knight. He’d fit well amongst the ranks of the Belmont family. From his overly large scythe, his costume and overall demeanor, Specter Knight almost feels like he should be hunting Dracula instead of the Order of No Quarter.
The campaign took me around five to six hours to complete, it’s much shorter than its predecessor but still a ton of fun. Your game time will rely heavily on your skill with Metroidvania titles. It’s even better on the go with Switch since you can just hop right into missions from the game’s tiny hub world, the Tower of Fate.
Now, how does this title stack up on the Switch? It’s great. Shovel Knight was released initially on PC, 3DS and Wii U in 2014, so it fits right at home on Nintendo’s newest on-the-go console. It’s a joy to play there. Each level is filled with vibrant colors, enemies, and bosses. It looks beautiful on the Switch’s 720p screen and equally as good on the television. You wouldn’t be wrong experiencing Specter Knight’s campaign in handheld, TV, or tabletop mode.
It’s refreshing to see Yacht Club Games in full support of the Nintendo Switch and I’ll be eagerly awaiting King Knight’s campaign as well as whatever the developer might be doing next on the Nintendo Switch.
Specter of Torment is a testimony to the potential of the Nintendo Switch. At an asking price of $10 for the standalone version, it’s great for fans of the series and those looking to give it a try for the first time. Shovel Knight can also be purchased with Specter of Torment and Plague of Shadows included for $24.99. There’s never been a better time to jump into the world of Shovel Knight and it’s made all the better by the Nintendo Switch.
I can’t recommend Specter of Torment enough, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about it since it does so much right. It’s a great title to play if you’re looking to play something other than Zelda. If more games like Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment continue to release on the Switch then Nintendo’s home console hybrid has a very bright future ahead of it.