It’s always exciting when a new console launches, but that excitement can abate somewhat if you’re hurting for games to play on your new toy. The Nintendo Switch has The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, of course, but that’s not necessarily going to last forever. You’ll need another game. You’ll need something that works both at home and on the go. You’ll need…Shovel Knight. Better yet, you need Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove!
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove essentially offers three games for the price of one: you’ve got Shovel of Hope, the base game starring the titular hero and his mighty digging implement; Plague of Shadows, which stars the mad alchemist Plague Knight; and Specter of Torment, featuring the ghostly Specter Knight. The latter two campaigns were originally released as free DLC and aren’t quite as long as the original, but the alternate characters offer a lot of neat gameplay changes compared to vanilla Shovel Knight so they’re absolutely worth a look.
The package as a whole is tied together with some of the best retro gameplay we’ve seen out of the indie scene. Given that said scene is really invested in the idea of bringing retro back, that’s saying something. Shovel Knight owes a lot to NES classics like DuckTales and Castlevania, offering tight level-based paltforming with plenty of secrets to discover and upgrades to dig up.
Our blue hero’s move set is deceptively simple, consisting solely of a shovel swing and a pogo jump along with several subweapons. The key lies in using these moves in interesting situations and combining them to create interesting effects. Many walls will collapse if shoveled, for instance, revealing goodies, while there are plenty of dirt piles all over the place to dig up for even more loot. The cash you end up with can be spend on upgrades and new gear for our hero, including a set of fancy color changes should fashion be your thing.
Shovel Knight’s goal is the explore the world and defeat the Order of No Quarter, a group of evil knights led by the villainous Enchantress. In Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, you’ll actually play as a pair of those evil knights. Plague of Shadows’ Plague Knight is an alchemist who focuses on using ranged weapons and double jumps to get around, encouraging a more acrobatic style of play over Shovel Knight’s traditional platforming. Specter Knight, meanwhile, has a vicious dashing strike that he uses to move around in the air, so properly timing your attacks is the key to ghostly victory. Both alternative characters have their own plots and levels, so it feels like playing an entirely new game.
Treasure Trove’s beautiful retro graphics, endearing animation and memorable music all help make the game one of the best options available at launch for the Switch. Yes, I said “beautiful retro graphics” – unlike the average me-too indie game, Shovel Knight actually looks and feels like a classic console platformer. In a cute touch, you’re actually able to select the gender of most significant characters in the game thanks to the new Body Swap option introduced in Treasure Trove, and some of the alternate designs are actually pretty cool-looking. On the sound front, Shovel Knight’s music is something else, while the sound effects are on par with what you’d expect from a retro title.
Despite the slightly greater price on this platform (Specter of Torment was free for anyone who owned Shovel Knight before it was released), if you’re looking for something to play on your Switch when you aren’t binging on Zelda, my first recommendation would be Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. It looks and plays great on a TV, but this collection really shines on the Switch’s beautiful screen in portable mode. Combined with the bite-sized levels, this makes for some great shovel-smashing on the go.