Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

The third campaign for Shovel Knight continues the the series' standard of platforming excellence.

Here we stand with the third entry in Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight, showing off everything the studio has learned since the first game's release in 2014. The initial Shovel Knight campaign, since renamed Shovel of Hope, was a polished homage to classic NES platformers like Mega Man and Ducktales. Plague of Shadows remixed the original title with new stages aimed towards veteran players with unique attack and movement mechanics.

While Plague of Shadows was an alternate reality take on the first campaign, Specter of Torment acts as a prequel to Shovel of Hope. You step into the shoes of Specter Knight, the undead warrior working directly for the Enchantress. It's up to Specter Knight to find the toughest warriors in the land, subdue them with his scythe, and forge the Order of No Quarter.

While Shovel Knight in concept played like a mix between Ducktales' Scrooge McDuck and Simon Belmont, Specter Knight stands as something a bit more unique. Specter Knight has a Dash Slash, which moves in a diagonal upwards or downwards motion. This means Spectre requires a target for his general movement, either from inanimate lanterns or enemies directly.

Editor's pick

Shovel Knight PC Review: Digging Up the Past to Find Buried Treasure

Successive attacks, which were easy with Shovel Knight's Shovel Drop, require a bit more movement to pull off. There's a rotation to it and you have to ensure that your positioning will result in a correct upward or downward slash. In addition, Spectre Knight can wall jump, walk directly up walls, and mantle onto platforms. As such, Spectre Knight feels like a more mobile character than Shovel or Plague Knight, closer to Strider Hiryu if I had to make a comparison.

Specter Knight lacks the extensive map of Shovel Knight's campaign, instead relying on a central hub and a magic mirror to choose between stages, bringing the series closer to Mega Man. To make up for this, Specter of Torment features completely new levels; yes, they use similar assets, but the composition is built specifically for Specter Knight's unique abilities. There's a lot of difficult platforming in Specter of Torment, with more chains of lanterns or enemies, more bottomless pits, and more split-screen reflexes required. Yacht Club Games plays with some other ideas in Specter of Torment, like Specter Knight's ability to rail-grind on his scythe.

Editor's pick

Shovel Knight's Plague of Shadows DLC is Great (and Free)

All told, when compared to Shovel Knight, Specter of Torment feels a bit on the short side. Despite that, it's still a great 2D platformer and one that every current Switch owner should be picking up. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is a tightly-tuned precise platformer, just like its predecessors. On its own, it's well worth the asking price and in the Treasure Trove bundle, you're getting three of finest 2D platformers in recent memory.

Honestly, while the platforming stages have become harder, I feel like the remixed boss encounters almost feel easier this time around. There are some standouts, like Propeller Knight's fight on scrolling platforms, but otherwise I didn't have much issue with most of the fights.

Specter Knight also trades in Shovel Knight's Relics for Curios, which operate in the same manner. Using a bit of Darkness, Specter Knight can access unique abilities, though players can get through the game without using any of them. Curios like Judgment Rush, which allows Specter to teleport towards enemies and through walls, Barrier Lantern, which absorbs enemy shots to charge an attack. Darkness charges by killing enemies and when combined with the Dash Slash, it makes Specter Knight a far more aggressive character than either of his counterparts.

Specter of Torment stands up well next to the previous Shovel Knight and Plague of Shadows campaigns. It's a bit on the short side and the bosses are a bit easier, but Yacht Club Games has kicked out some excellent new stages this time around. This prequel still offers precise platforming and a unique, more aggressive style of play to the series.


Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

Related articles

Control's Foundation DLC Provides the Payoff for All the Fan Speculation

If you want to know more about the Oldest House, the Foundation has your answers.

Half-Life: Alyx Review: Forget About Freeman

After over a decade, Valve has brought back Half-Life with a VR prequel. It won't reach everybody, but lot of folks will keep their headsets clamped down like Headcrabs.

Doom Eternal Review: You Remain Unbroken

It's just you, a chainsaw, and a shotgun against all the hordes of Hell. It's not a fair fight... for them.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review: A Flawed Beauty

Ori's second adventure plays like poetry, but performance issues sometimes drag the experience down into the darkness.

You may also like

What's The Best Animal Crossing Fruit?

COMMUNITY QUESTION | Are you a pear defender? #PeachSquad? Let us know!

How Doom 64's New "Lost Levels" Connect to Doom Eternal

In bringing the oft-overlooked N64 entry to new systems, Bethesda, id, and Nightdive have canonized its story.

It's Not Game Over for GameStop Just Yet

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Reports of the retailer's imminent demise have been mildly exaggerated.