Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows DLC


He’s just so… cute!

I’m back to sing Shovel Knight’s praises again! Except this time… it’s Plague Knight I’m rooting for?!

While Plague Knight didn’t especially stand out to me while playing Shovel Knight for the first time, I was immensely excited when I read about this free DLC for owners of the original game. In Plague of Shadows, the player assumes the role of Plague Knight, who is on a quest to become the most powerful alchemist out there. With the help of a few friends, of course.

I’m happy to report that we’re not talking about a mere palette swap here. I could tell a lot of time and care went into this DLC. Though it’s true that you will replay the same basic stages, they’ve been remodeled and subtle changes have been made to accompany Plague Knight’s style. And man, it is hella different. If you’ve played the normal campaign recently, it will take some getting used to.


Just look at all these options!

Being an alchemist, Plague Knight relies on an assortment of potion bombs to blow up enemies. Don’t expect any signature shovel pogo sticking here. Instead, you’ll be double jumping, bursting, and tossing explosive vials. Bursting is an effect that will trigger when releasing the button. Plague Knight can glide, rain a blizzard on enemies below him, break through walls, and more. A common practice for gaining gravity is to double jump then burst, but you can do any combination of burst and jumping that you’d like. His bombs have THREE different features that you can upgrade and swap out whenever you want. It is very important to purchase these and experiment with them, as many effects are situational. Don’t learn the hard way (like me) that having a certain explosion or casing type can make or break a boss fight. Because they most certainly do.


Treasure Trappings… Troupple King is my kinda Troupple.

Plague Knight utilizes magic as well. So on top of micromanaging your basic attack (which can get frustrating on certain stages… especially after the upteenth “Why do I keep dying here?!” death) you also have magic spells to consider. Some of the magic spells are wildly different than Shovel Knight’s, while others are different animations serving the same purpose. For example: While Shovel Knight gets the Dust Knuckles to soar across gaps, Plague Knight gets a dust cloud that he can walk through.

On top of the great new mechanics and creative equipment and abilities comes a fresh and thoroughly enjoyable story with delightful characters. Yacht Club Games did an impressive job of giving Plague Knight his own fresh story that runs parallel to what we saw the first time around. You’ll see some new faces, but more importantly, you’ll see a different side to characters you thought you knew. Most of the knights haven’t really changed; their ire is just temporarily directed towards Plague Knight. But damn, if it isn’t hilarious watching the pre-boss battle banter.


Sound logic right there.

In short, the Plague of Shadows DLC is the perfect excuse to delve back into this game again. And this is coming from a person who almost never buys or downloads DLC. Typically when I am done with a game, I’m done. But for Shovel Knight fans, this is an opportunity you won’t want to miss. Plague Knight’s story is charming, fun, and hopefully a showcase of what other tricks Yacht Club Games has up their sleeves!


Shovel Knight Review


I wish I could insert the sound effect that goes along with this pose.

Shovel Knight is, simply put, an entertaining breath of nostalgic air. Imagine, if you can, an 8-bit retro game inspired by the likes of some of our favorite NES platformers; Megaman and Super Mario Bros. 3 were two titles from my gaming past that I kept experiencing deja vu moments for while playing Shovel Knight. I never played Duck Tales, but the Shovel pogo-ing is unmistakable.

I’m happy to report that Shovel Knight is more than just a sum of its parts. On its own merit, it is a wonderfully crafted adventure, in which you can feel the dedication and love pouring out of its development. Yacht Club Games didn’t stop at just creating an 8-bit platformer to get NES gamers like myself to buy it. They went above and beyond to create a genuinely great game that stands on its own two feet. They could have just settled on 8-bit  graphics and music. Yet every screen has amazing color contrast and texture work, and every song is a catchy beat you’ll be humming long after you’ve turned the game off.

Shovel-Knight campfire

Hard to believe he sleeps with that helmet on.

Shovel Knight truly is a game that would challenge anyone who doesn’t think 8-bit graphics can be aesthetically pleasing.

The world map is presented as a near clone to Super Mario Bros. 3, with progression locked until you defeat certain bosses. There are two villages you can visit to speak with NPCs and purchase upgrades, and the side-scrolling is reminiscent of LoZ 2. Health upgrades can be obtained by turning in meal tickets, while your magic capacity, weapon and armor upgrades are purchased with good old fashioned gold. I wasn’t entirely crazy about having to return to town to change armor (each armor has different features and changes Shovel Knight’s appearance). Magic in Shovel Knight is really using secondary items called relics. Each relic will use a certain amount of magic, and when your magic is out you’re stuck  unless you pick up an item to fill it. The more you upgrade your magic, the more you can use without needing to refill it. And there are a lot of different relics to collect for how short this game is.

shovel knight boss

Yeah, this guy is a dick.

The stages themselves take the Megaman approach; 8  bosses to defeat and all! Clear a certain Knight’s stage and defeat the Knight. Unlike Megaman, defeating a Knight does not grant you with an “I Win” button to use against the next boss. In this game, you don’t get crazy weaknesses to exploit, giving more trial and error to boss fights that surpasses Megaman’s “Okay, time to find the boss weak to fire! Gee, can’t imagine who it could be!”

Instead, we get checkpoints! Checkpoints abound! One great aspect about Shovel Knight is that you can decide to make the game more difficult, therefore more faithful to some of your favorite NES games if you so choose. Checkpoints are splattered throughout each stage. If you die, you lose a handful of gold that you can retrieve by picking it up again. If you’re feeling ballsy, you can DESTROY your checkpoints for a decent wad of gold, meaning you must start even further back (or at the beginning) of the stage. I’m not the sort of person to partake in difficulty challenges nowadays, but I give the developers a nod for coming up with a clever compromise between old school difficulty and the current gaming trends of abundant checkpoints.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed that here at Hardly Hobbies, we love it when a game pokes fun at itself. Shovel Knight’s dialogue is filled with humorous puns and pokes at the cheesy, poorly-translated games of yore. SK takes it’s medieval theme and runs with it, creating hilarious dialogue that will help you unwind after getting worked up over the boss that killed you five times in a row.

And you will die. Shovel Knight isn’t insanely difficult, but it does have a handful of stages that rely on practice and memorization, particularly with shovel pogo-ing. Thanks to not having a set amount of lives, and (usually) generous checkpoints, I didn’t experience any of the rage I get when playing old school games.

Now that Shovel  Knight is being ported to systems outside of the 3DS and Wii U, I’m hoping it will receive a lot more support. It’s a fantastic game, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys 2D platformers. And shovels.