Shovel Knight: King of Cards

Shovel Knight: King of Cards

Shovel Knight has been a gift that keeps on giving. The three titles that comprised the Treasure Trove collection prior to King of Cards included one of my favourite games ever, plus two expansions – one flawed but interesting, one straightforward but solid. With this final single-player expansion, it now contains two of my favourite games ever. King Knight’s dash-to-spin-jump combo is the most intuitive combat/movement system of the whole tetralogy, and the new levels take advantage of it in every possible way. It almost works too well, since it makes this the easiest of the four campaigns and makes the collection of sub-weapons less useful on average. There are still niches for most of them, however, and the challenge level is still perfectly engaging.

The quality 8-bit aesthetics obviously return, and there’s once again a strong, character-driven narrative underneath them. You’d think after three games, I’d stop being surprised about this, but King of Cards disarms players with a long stream of wackiness before revealing its depth. What really differentiates this expansion, though, is Joustus, a semi-optional card game that I spent almost as much time with as the main campaign. It’s astonishingly deep and innovative – not just by the standards of minigames, but in general. The overlap between people who like madcap retro platforming and strategic card games is probably very small, but I’m right in the center of it, and being able to switch between the two at my leisure was a luxury I didn’t know I wanted. There’s even a semi-secret two-player version of it!

9.5/10
9.5/10

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