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Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Switch

Review: Forager

Developer: HopFrog

Publisher: Humble Bundle

Genre: Open World, Survival, Adventure

Platforms: PC, Switch, PlayStation 4

Rating: E for Everyone 10+

Price: $19.99

In today’s gaming world, Minecraft is a household name. More knowledgeable players may be aware of Terraria or even the Rune Factory series. Terraria in particular was a perfect fit for me, until an update made the game’s UI nearly unplayable on the PS4 port. Now, years later, I had come to miss some crafting excellence. Upon first glance, Forager immediately reminded me of characteristics of these separate game franchises, among others. How well does it hold up on it’s own, let alone against these gaming giants? With that question in mind, let’s jump into our review of Forager on the Nintendo Switch!

Content Guide

Blood+Violence: Enemies will attack the player on sight, and defeating said enemies will result in a small, pixelated squirt of blood.

Fantasy Violence: There are several magical staves that cast spells against opponents.

Mild Humor: A certain quest requires the collection of fecal matter for a NPC obsessed with the stuff. Attacking certain characters result in jocularly horrified commentary.

Demons/Undead: Forager contains Demonic and Undead opponents. One certain item raises Skeletons for the player, A Necronomicon can also be obtained. 

 

Review

Forager has a variety of unlockable bonus materials outside the game, like this cute little comic.
Wilson? WIIIILSON!!!

Starting Forager‘s application, I was treated to a cute little Humble Bundle intro with creator commentary. The top menu screen came up, offering a chance to look at several options, including extra content and future plans for the game. Seeing as not much could be done with the other options yet, I had little choice but to start playing the game.                                                                                     

Once finally in the game, I found myself stranded on an island with naught but naught but a pickaxe, backpack, and some resources to hack at. Almost reflexively, I started digging. While I did so, small button commands and flashing notification signs began to pop up, directing my attention to different aspects the game presented. Taking a page from games in the past, there were little-to-no tutorials at all. From crafting my first furnace to making money, most everything was self taught, which was a nice change of pace from the hand-holding many modern games are guilty of.

Mine, Mine, MINE!

After crafting my first few items, I was quickly able to make money (literally) and buy my first piece of land. I was excited. Already I was so hooked into crafting my items that a new piece of land, with more resources, was thrilling. Imagine my disappointment, then, when the piece of land turned out to be just that: a tiny piece of land a third of the size of my tutorial island. This was the first time I was disappointed in the game, but I kept right on going. My Empire must have its industry!

Look at me. Look at me in my little. top. hat. I’m adorable.

Over the course of the game, lands progressively became more difficult to acquire, and stayed consistent in it’s random generation of size. Regardless of these challenges, however, it quickly became my goal to acquire all pieces of land in the game, and within each new piece was a new challenge to overcome and new loot to acquire. Since there is no story in Forager, leveling up and land possession became the scales in which I measured my progress.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

With the purchase of each new piece of land, there’s a chance to come across two main types of buildings; a Temple, or a Puzzle.

Each dungeon segment has it’s own boss.
This was the boss of the ice segment.

Reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda series, Temples are dungeon-esque levels which contain a mix of puzzles and enemies, a new weapon, and a boss battle. Being a lifetime Zelda fan, I really enjoyed these segments, but found them far, far too short.

Puzzles are scattered throughout the 49 segments of land in the game, but the most difficult (and my favorite) take place within towers. The fire-themed Puzzle tower has been the greatest puzzle challenge I’ve had in quite some time, and was intensely time-consuming for me to solve. My favorite tower, however, didn’t have a puzzle, but rather a series of riddles whose solutions required me to find certain items. For example, a riddle about water required me to find water and put it on the corresponding riddle. I love good riddles that I have to solve myself; they are an underrated puzzle mechanic that needs to be in more games.

However short they are, these obstacles are an excellent change of pace from the from the regular grind of crafting and leveling in regular gameplay, and are definitely a shining factor within Forager‘s experience. 

…And the People You’ll Meet!

One of Forager‘s largest sources of charm comes from its NPCs. With each offering their own “advice” and commentary, it was always a nice little nugget to find a new one when I bought a piece of land. Granted, they usually wanted something from me that I almost never had yet, but at least most of them were friendly about it.

One notable character is the Giant Beet. The Giant Beet is so sweet and it always compliments you and tells you something positive, which I probably took much more seriously than I should have (honestly though, how many games nowadays have such innocent positivity). Imagine my shock, then, when I accidentally attacked one of it’s neighboring beets, prompting the comment “I Still Love You!!” Aww.

Too bad one of the game’s achievements require you to kill it.

Aww… This beet is the sweetest beet.
Talking to him is a treat.
My Favorite Things

My favorite thing to do in Forager was to find the many easter eggs and pop culture references hidden throughout the game. From completing NPC quests to unlocking achievements, there are several skins and quotes from pop and gaming culture that were an absolute delight to find and understand.

I am the Knight…
Here to bring the art of Shovelry to my Empire!

For most of the game, I ended up using the Hollow Knight skin, which made my jaw drop upon first sight. Beyond that, there are also references to Overwatch, Shovel Knight, Terraria, The Legend of Zelda, and even Super Meat Boy.

I Hardly Even Touched Him!

Combat in Forager is incredibly easy. Since there are only a handful of different enemy types, none of which with any particularly difficult mechanics, combat interactions are always pretty short, regardless of weapon type. This made me wonder why there would be any need for weapon upgrades and variety, and combat actions. No enemy is moving fast enough to require dodge rolling, and though new swords kill enemies faster, they couldn’t hit me if I always moving. Since I made food such as cooked fish, it was even easier, as downing a few fish will restore any health lost as long as I wasn’t full. Over the course of the game I was given many opportunities to expand my health, but really never needed to.

I would love to have more enemies and difficult combat experiences in the future, should any of the teased installments be added to the game.

Just…Just Let Me See the Map. Please
Here you see a direct consequence of the funky map scrolling.
I could barely make out what the sign said!

As I had said before, a horrible UI update ruined my PS4 Terraria experience in the past. Like a nightmarish flashback, Forager gave me a similar experience at times as well. However, unlike the Terraria update, this is not too late to change!

There are two very egregious examples of gameplay irritation I am thinking of. The first is the lack of a good overworld map. Throughout the game I was always on the move, between gathering resources, to crafting, to making money. Because of this, I was often on the opposite side of my Empire than the next piece of land I was buying, or item I was crafting. The only option to see a decent map was to go to a menu section labeled “Buy Land” and check. However! Even when using this tab, the map window often would stop panning, depending on where I was located. For example, If I wanted to buy a Northern piece of land, but was in a Southern map piece, I could only see the pieces of land in the grid row underneath the the Northern piece of land, requiring me to move North a bit so my map could expand further. This drove me crazy, and was horribly inconvenient, especially when in a timed scenario.

The second red flag I experienced was with ranged weapon controls. When using, say, a bow, the button prompt requires the regular “action” input and uses the right stick to aim. Regular stuff. However, while the aim cursor is pointing left, if I let go of the aiming stick, the bow would fire right, while the aim cursor remained to my left. Due to the aforementioned ease of combat within Forager, this wasn’t too inconvenient, but it did render several weapons almost worthless for quick use in gameplay.

See where the aim marker is?
The arrow clearly did not get the memo.
The Best Forager Has To Offer

If I were to take all the game experiences that Forager gave me, bad and good, and boiled out the single strongest feature that puts it above the competition, the RPG elements would be it. The skill tree is Forager‘s best and most unique feature. From passive effects, like earning 20% more gold selling items, to active effects, such as earning more crafting materials, I was always excited to find out what my next levels could unlock. The system isn’t perfect for me, but that’s also a part of the system’s ingenuity: not everyone has my playstyle.

Mmm…It’s Missing Something
There are six additions teased for Forager‘s future. However, only two of them are named so far.

For a time, Forager presents plenty to do. Throughout my playthrough I made three personal goals: first, to buy all available properties; second, to see all that the skill tree had to offer; and lastly, to craft every item I could. Over time I found that the third goal became more and more out of reach, as the time sink became too heavy and resources too numerous. With 5 tiers of item crafting, the time, resources, and energy to make new items literally increased exponentially. Eventually I drew a line when a new item, the “obliterator,” wanted 100 of 3 different types of very difficult and rare materials.

Using those three goals, I believe I have been able to experience all that Forager has to offer me, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. However, there’s just something…missing. For example, there was a very limited  variety of weapon upgrades, and all of the perks are the same no matter the playthrough. Crafting items moved from very manageable to nearly impossible almost instantly, and there is next-to-no incentive for game completion besides the completion itself.

To put it flatly, I feel that the late-game experience strongly builds up to the upcoming update and patch releases, but until then, is missing a crucial step in gameplay. Seeing as Forager just officially came out in the middle of this year, I continue to have strong hopes for it’s expansion and potential.

There you have it, after 29 hours of playtime, I have little large complaint…
But have also done basically everything I cared to do.

Review copy generously provided by Humble Bundle

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Articles Gaming PC PS4 Retro Switch Xbox One

GUG Plays: Shovel Knight

Greetings, Geeks! This is the fourth of a (hopefully) monthly series where our staff discusses some highlights of some of our favorite hand-chosen games. If there is a modern game that you would like to read what we have to say about it, let us know at [email protected]!

 

Derek Thompson

After eight or nine years away from video games, I came back to quite a different world, one where indies now have a large influence. I don’t remember the original reason I purchased Shovel Knight—probably the recommendation of a friend. But what I quickly found was that nostalgia can carry you a very, very long way.

I can’t think of a particular thing that Shovel Knight does that makes it stand out above everyone else. There’s no unique twist or polish that I would call its defining characteristic. But its retro motif, in graphics, sound, gameplay, and even attitude, makes it more than the sum of its parts. It feels like a game that could have happened in 1989, but is somehow better because it’s happening now. Better games have come since. I could hardly argue that Shovel Knight stands above Celeste, for example, but I could not have asked for a better way to reintegrate myself into modern gaming than such a love letter to the NES classics I grew up with.  

 

Michael Mendis

Shovel Knight is a beautiful throwback to the NES’ heyday in the late 1980’s. The 8-bit-esque graphics and soundtrack capture the feel of that era, and the gameplay feels like a melee-centric version of the classic Mega Man titles. From the moment the game began, I immediately felt at home, as if I was re-living my childhood gaming experiences.

The thing is, I never actually experienced the heights of the NES days. By the time I was old enough to play games, the 8-bit era had given way to the 16-bit era…and when I actually got a 16-bit console, the world had moved on to 32-bit and 64-bit games. Furthermore, I was a SEGA kid, cutting my teeth on the slopes and loop-de-loops of Sonic games. The rigid, blocky level design of Mega Man was something I wasn’t familiar with.

How is it possible, then, that Shovel Knight could elicit that kind of reaction from me? How could it remind me of experiences I never had?

Perhaps the answer lies in the way Shovel Knight executes its vision, and in the NES’ legacy. The NES reinvigorated a slumping industry, and its games proved foundational for the ones we enjoy today. So even though I never played those old NES titles, I absorbed their lessons from the countless other games they influenced. Shovel Knight, then, distills all of those lessons back to their basic form. Its entire design is finely honed, and every piece—gameplay, storytelling, artwork, soundtrack—complements the others and elevates the whole. Furthermore, it adds a few subtle tweaks, such as an expanded color palette and complex animations that wouldn’t have been possible had the game been made on an actual NES, thus ensuring that it doesn’t feel out of place in the modern era. It’s a game that instantly feels familiar, even if you haven’t played many games that look like it.

So regardless of your gaming background, you should give Shovel Knight a try. It stands as a strong link to gaming’s past, a reminder of how we got to where we are today. And it’s just plain fun.

 

Maurice Pogue

I’m a little older than Michael, so I was indeed old enough to play Mega Man on the OG NES. In fact, I have played them on the NES, SNES (MM7), PSX (MM8), as well as the Anniversary Collection. I was also among the elated when Capcom announced that Mega Man 9 was coming coming to WiiWare in 2007(released 2008), since it would be the first entry in the main series since 1996. But then I actually played the game, and concluded that those mechanics should have been left in the prior decade. 

I cannot shake this same feeling with Shovel Knight. It strikes me as a game designed to appeal to those longing for nostalgia, or for folks like Michael, a placebo effect for a missed era. I actually still have access to my old (working) NES from 1985, but it will stay under my parent’s cabinet collecting dust for the simple reason that I have no desire to return to that epoch. 

Shovel Knight mimics side-scrollers like Ninja Gaiden right down to enemies barely hiding below the surface of a platform suspended above a bottomless pit. And sure enough, when I jump to it, the collision detection registers the damage, and Shovel Knight‘s recoil animation sends me spiraling to my doom, forcing me to restart the level. Given my background in video games, a lack of checkpoint is not foreign to me; however, I also point out that checkpoint mechanics were added in the 16-bit generation with games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World as quality-of-life features to reduce the frustration of having to start all the way over—and those games were relatively easy! 

Even modern versions of yesteryear’s “Nintendo-hard” games, roguelites such as Dead Cells, do not instakill from bottomless pits.  More importantly, Dead Cells is a fast game, or rather, it is fast when played optimally, as the bonus cell chests unlock when players reach the corresponding timed door within certain intervals. Shovel Knight, in contrast, plods along, making my prior failures late in the level that much more excruciating. The dash boots upgrade in games like the Mega Man X series is a key reason why I prefer them over vanilla Mega Man. And Shovel Knight models itself after the latter with bare-minimum modern accommodations.

Shovel Knight has its charm, and I can understand why it is popular. It just is not for me. I would rather enjoy modern games with retro aesthetics like pixelart instead modern games with retro gameplay. 

I’d rather Sonic all day every day.
Categories
Gaming PC Reviews Switch

Review: Semblance (Switch)

Developer: Nyamakop
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure,
Platform: Switch, PC                               Rating: E for Everyone                         Price: $9.99

Semblance began humbly through South African developer, Nyamakop, which formed in 2015. The indie team consists of Ben Myres and Cukia Kimani. During the final year of their honor degree, they presented a small project game. The external examiner, Judd Simantov, ex-Naughty Dog, suggested the project become a full game. Its development would continue through 2016 while appearing at shows, festivals, and expos, as well as winning a couple awards.

Content Guide

Spiritual ContentWhile Squishy doesn’t interact with other characters during the game, the background contains interesting creatures that some could view as demonic figures.

ViolenceSquishy will repeatedly fall victim to environmental traps.  When this happens, he disintegrates or explodes, causing him to scream out in pain.

Positive ContentThere seems to be a Christian theme of restoration/redemption. Squishy’s world has become infected or corrupted by a disease (sin) and Squishy’s job is to set right what went wrong.

Review

Outside of Limbo, INSIDE, Bastion, and Shovel Knight, I’m generally not a fan of indie games. While I appreciate the care, design, and attention to detail the developers put into the game, I generally prefer a good action adventure game. However, Semblance has changed my mind.

With its minimalist art style, the storyline can only be pieced together by observing what happens in the opening scene of the game and when new worlds are opened up to explore. That being said, the world has been corrupted by virus and the only way to restore it is by the protagonist Squishy solving puzzles and collecting pink orbs.

Squishy is a playdough-like figure who can bend, push, deform, reform, and move many of the games platforms. In addition to Squishy, you’ll encounter several well-designed creatures silently observing the world. There is no exchange of dialogue between Squishy and the NPCs; however, that doesn’t mean Squishy is the only character because the environment is as much a character as Squishy.

We now turn to gameplay, which is the key component to this game. I’ve played many platformers both good and bad. Semblance is simply fantastic. It wonderfully job represents the platforming genre while propelling it forward with innovative design and interactivity. As mentioned you’ll be spending your time figuring out puzzles so if you can’t reach a ledge, bend a platform upward by jumping under it. If a jump seems too high make a slingshot with the environment by pressing into a wall and changing directions. If you need to climb to an area that unreachable by bending or slingshotting yourself upwards, make Squishy-sized impressions on the wall and hop up the indentions like stairs. If you’re like me you’ll be challenged by the puzzles and traps. Mistakes will be frequent, but don’t worry because Squishy has the ability to reform the platforms to their original state which means players will be able to try different approaches to puzzles.

I also found the games visuals, sound effects and soundtrack to be appealing. Visually the game is filled with muted hues of greens, pinks, blues, and purples giving the game stunning backgrounds. The music was inspirited by tribal drums, and flutes which fit the environment nicely.

However, all of these positive remarks doesn’t mean Semblance is perfect, as I experienced a couple of problems.First of all, I would occasionally struggle with the controls; they would become unresponsive, and Squishy wouldn’t move for several seconds. There were also times when my hands would be away from the controller and Squishy would jump, slide, and reform parts of the puzzle which would cause me to restart portions or puzzles in their entirety.

 

A second problem I discovered while playing Semblance was the camera. Throughout my play through, the camera would get behind or get ahead of Squishy. This would lead to making puzzles difficult if not impossible to complete. The only solution would be to reset Squishy, a mechanic which is present because Squishy will occasionally get stuck in the environment. Again this would sometimes result in restarting a puzzle in  portions or in its entirety.

Overall, despite the games flaws I found Semblance  to be enjoyable. A great bonus is the fact the game seems to be available at reasonable cost. If you enjoy platforming games, puzzle games, or are looking for something unique in games, I without reservation recommend Semblance.

Review code generously provided by Sandbox Strategies.
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Articles Christian Living Gaming

Christ’s Love in Plague of Shadows: Our Response

In my first article on Shovel Knight as allegory, I looked at the love story between Shovel Knight and Shield Knight as a mirror of Christ’s love and relentless pursuit of His Church. So, we know what Christ is willing to do for us. But now, if we intend to accept this offer of salvation, we must ask ourselves: what’s required of us?
Well, I hope you played the Plague of Shadows DLC, because the love story between Plague Knight and Mona reflects something of our relationship with Christ as well.
*Amanda is not advocating you gain all spiritual insight from retro platformers; she merely draws parallels between faith and geekdom because she over-analyzes everything. Please be sure to build a foundation in Scripture first and foremost.*
In the Plague of Shadows story, we see a different pursuit born of love. Plague Knight pines for Mona but thinks himself inadequate for her affection. It’s a cute romance that rights itself after moments of miscommunication, but does it really have the depth to convey lessons in Christian attitudes?
You should know what I’m going to say by now.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Plague Knight is our charming anti-hero, member of the Order of No Quarter, who has sworn fealty to the Enchantress only so he can rob her and the other powerful Knights of their Essences. With such ingredients, he can concoct a potion to give him ultimate power and the ability to gain anything he could ever want. Yet all he really wants…is Mona’s love.
He considers this affection to be unattainable, though, as circumstances (and the comments of others) drive home his shortcomings. (Get it? Shortcomings?) His solution: force a change in character which he assumes Mona will fall for.
The faulty logic here is clear to players who can already see that Mona loves him as is. But you know, those who follow Jesus can often be just as oblivious as our twitterpated, bird-masked alchemist. We often work to achieve what our Savior already freely offers.
Isn’t it interesting that across cultures, upbringings, and religions, there’s this tenacious human need to either prove our worth or strive to accomplish deeds that grant redemption? It’s as if we can feel our intrinsic fallen nature from day one. It even permeates our entertainment, with stories of short-statured, maniac alchemists who don’t see themselves getting the girl.
And how do we become “enough“? According to Plague Knight, “The potion is the only way.” He believes he will only be acceptable to Mona if his self-imposed criteria are met. Have you ever engineered something similar before Christ—your own checklist to be met before you finally believe his grace is for you?
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There are no previously-established conditions to meet in order to receive this gift. And yes, those who have decided to follow Christ are asked to take up their cross for the sake of their Savior: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). But remember, Jesus didn’t say, “Obey my commands, and then maybe I’ll love you.” The love he offers is free for our acceptance; it’s my belief that our own obedience is born from the love we offer back to him.
Now, if you’ve played Plague of Shadows, you know about the dance subplot. (If you haven’t played Plague of Shadows, you’re missing out on some serious charm, my friend.) In the middle of his grasp for ultimate power, Plague Knight tries an alternate gamble to win Mona’s heart: learning some sweet footwork to join her in her heretofore solo dance hobby. From a romantic perspective, this already wins all the heart reacts your bevy of emojis can provide. But it’s also important from a spiritual perspective: hich response do you think Jesus asks of you as his follower? Conceive of a grand gesture that’s got you out to prove your worth? Or would he ask of you something that brings you in close relationship with him?
In the end, the latter gesture is successful between Plague Knight and Mona, and it’s my opinion that this is a fair mirror for what Christ asks of us in return. It still takes work, and it takes all our soul to engage in such a relationship; but it’s the difference between attempting to deserve what you don’t think is yours, and hearing your Savior say “It already is.”
I mean, if anything, it sure beats drinking a volatile potion that may force you to battle a dark version of yourself.
(Will there be a Specter of Torment study? Stay tuned after I binge-play that game!)
Categories
Gaming Reviews Switch

Review: Shovel Knight-Treasure Trove (Switch)

Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
GenrePlatformer
Platforms: Switch

Rating: E for Everyone
Price: $24.99
Since the release of Shovel Knight back in 2014, the titular character has successfully dug his way into our hearts. Our favorite shovel-wielding hero has become something of a mascot for the independent game development industry, especially since there now is a version available on literally every platform. I own a copy on my PS4, 3DS, and gladly purchased Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove on the Nintendo Switch to experience some never-before seen content.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove makes its way onto Nintendo Switch with every update that has already been released along with new content that is timed-exclusive to the platform. The biggest addition is the new campaign featuring Spectre Knight, titled “Spectre of Torment.” Other included features are additional amiibo functions, co-op, and a Body Swap mode. There is already a lot of content  in this package, and yet the developers have confirmed that there will be more on the way. Even if you don’t own a Nintendo Switch, I would recommend reading this spoiler-free review while you wait for the free content update to roll out onto your platform of choice.

Content Guide

Much like a Super Mario game, Shovel Knight is meant to be something that the whole family can get into. There is no foul language to be found at all, and when enemies are destroyed, they turn into a puff of smoke as a bunch of gems scatter in the area where their defeat takes place. Something that our readers should know is that Shovel Knight’s constant reoccuring theme includes references and use of magic through wizardry and sorcery, though this is presented in a fantastical sense that you might find in a Disney movie or other family-centered piece of media.
Another thing of note is that there is a Body Swap mode that does swap the gender of some characters within the story, resulting in the interchange of male or female versions of characters. I bring this up because some of the female versions of characters are given breasts and curvature; this has been done to depict the swap in gender in a noticable, yet modest manner.
It seems that each campaign within Treasure Trove has an underlying theme that comes along with the action. To avoid spoiler territory, I will not be going into specifics or Spectre Knight’s story. However one of our Christian Living writers at Geeks Under Grace has actually started a series of articles that will go into the underlying theme of each character’s campaign. Amanda B’s first article is titled “Christ’s Love in Shovel Knight: Relentless Pursuit,” in which she digs deep into a redemption allegory of the original story. There will be more to come, including the next study featuring Plague Knight. So be sure to look out for more of that if interested!

Review

Most of the content in Treasure Trove has already seen the light of day for quite awhile now, so for this particular review we will be going into the new campaign and some features that were added into the original.
Shovel Knight: Spectre of Torment gives players control of Spectre Knight as the Enchantress gives him the task of recruiting seven other knights to join her Order of No Quarter. As Spectre Knight proposes the offer to the other knights, many try to test his strength in the form of boss fights. After completing a level, Spectre Knight sits atop the Tower of Fate, brooding and reminiscing over a necklace rather than sitting fire-side at a camp like our pal Shovel Knight. Though we don’t know the significance of this object until later, it is during these moments that we get to witness and even play some memories that our character is looking back on. These moments are the strongest trait of Spectre of Torment and cleverly move the story along in such a way that tugged at my heart in the end.

The gameplay and level design is completely unlike the other two campaigns. Spectre Knight is a beast with a scythe along with the abilities he gains from Curios—relics, basically. Spectre Knight’s unique way of attacking enemies is a dash attack that can be done above or below an enemy with a small slash reticle that tells you which direction you’re aiming. Much like Shovel Knight’s downward attack and Plague Knight’s bombs, this mechanic is heavily and creatively utilized on platforming. The criminally under-utilized mechanic is grinding; Spectre Knight can grind on rails( and on any surface once you get the ability) while standing on his scythe like a skateboard. Outside of the Tower, this mechanic is only used during one stage and on a separate boss battle.

Throughout most of your journey it feels as if the power of Spectre Knight is in the palm of your hand, and this feeling doesn’t necessarily come from being overpowered in a damage-dealing sense. While the challenge is still there, it is the given mechanics and abilities that make it so. This brought me to a small issue: in the last few stages, I experiences a sudden spike in difficulty. Every stage has some sort of unique platforming gimmick. I experienced this mostly in Tinker Knight’s stage which was the final stage on my quest for recruitment. its gimmicks just feel overbearing. The same goes for the very final stage as well; it just feels odd to make me so confident and full of trength to then suddenly, neutered due to some of those gimmicks,
Regardless, the Spectre of Torment campaign is an outstanding experience compared to Plague of Shadows, which features a character and mechanics that I didn’t particularly care for. Included with what already feels like a brand new game in the series in the first place, the developers have added a few features that greatly add to the original (now known as Shovel of Hope). The first is all of the amiibo features that were already present on other platforms, such as the leveling-up of a custom Shovel Knight and Co-op Mode. This Co-op mode that was once exclusive to the Wii U is said to finally make it to other platforms during the free update.

The second and most unique addition to the Shovel of Hope campaign is a “Body Swap” mode. This mode tailors the campaign’s story through gender. This means that you can swap the gender of any major character in the game, including each knight and Shovel Knight himself. The changes are seen through the proper pronouns and sprites, the Enchantress will be called “The Enchanter” for example.  You have the option to go down the list and swap specific characters, make it opposite day by hitting the “opposite” button, or just leave it up to chance and hit the “random” button. The Body Swap option is also present in the pause menu if you decide to switch things up mid-game. What would seem like a minor change actually has the potential to bring a whole new dynamic to a story that many have already grown familiar with. At this time, the Body Swap mode is only featured in the Shovel of Hope campaign.

And Finally, I can’t say enough great things about the presentation. I have played and reviewed many indie titles that have overused the retro presentation, but I believe it ws Yacht Club games that started the trend of high production value with Shovel Knight. Not only did they achieve this with graphics and sound, they also took aspects from our favorite video games of all time and blended them into one. Just look at Shovel Knight’s downward attack, a page taken straight out of Ducktales on the NES. Even the whole knight theme and freedom of stage select was directly inspired by Mega Man and its robot theme. Shovel Knight himself is an armored Scrooge McDuck with Mega Man’s color palette. Those are only a few out of many callbacks that are present.
Since the Switch has came in limited runs and the new content has yet to make it onto other platforms, I can’t wait to talk with others about the new campaign. Treasure Trove contains a massive amount of content with more to come, and easily accessible for anyone who has not yet picked up this amazing title. Even before I owned a Nintendo Switch, it bugged me when I would read or hear people say “There are no games on the Switch,” or “The Switch is a $300 Zelda machine,” because Shovel Knight is and was already a great video game when it first released in 2014. If you’re buying a Switch, you are obviously going to pick up Breath of the Wild, but do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove on the eShop as well.

Shovel Knight fans can look forward to seeing more of our favorite shovel-wielding night when he makes a cameo appearance in Yooka-Laylee. Those who already own Shovel Knight on other platforms will be receiving the free Treasure Trove update sometime this month. Lastly, all of us will await a new campaign featuring King Knight and the 4-player Battle Mode which are both expected to drop sometime later this year.

 

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