With so many games spanning the release window of September to November, the biggest games of the season have come and gone for 2019. In December, the year and the industry wind down, but some sleeper hits arrived at the tail end of this year, including Shovel Knight: King of Cards. Once again, Yacht Club Games proves how capable they are as a developer and delivers another standout platformer that shouldn’t be missed.
Following previous DLC campaigns Specter of Torment and Plague of Shadows, two excellent pieces of content for the Shovel Knight series, comes King of Cards, which follows King Knight as he becomes a king. This prequel does a solid job of introducing King Knight’s mechanics, which took some time to get used to, but certainly entertaining engaging enemies with. What’s even funnier is that King Knight acts like he’s a king but isn’t even close to being one. His demeanour is often a joke that other characters dunk on and so, once he learns that a tournament is looking to crown the King of Cards, King Knight immediately moves to dump his duties as a prince and become the best Joustus player.
I want to be the very best
See, King Knight uses his shoulder bash to tackle enemies and fancifully twirl over your opponent. I learned the hard way and several deaths that simply jumping on an enemy damages you, but the added flair of twirling shifts the damage to your enemy. Simply put, I lacked the ability to understand his abilities until I realized that each level was built to cater to these abilities. Once I figured that out, the game became a whole lot more enjoyable, and easily of the most competent platformers, I’ve played.
And what I enjoyed was the difficulty curve found throughout the game. At no time did I feel like the game penalized me for my mistakes, and usually my actions were the cause of King Knight’s demise. If you’ve played any of the prior games in the series, the familiarity of each level and how they are built offers a better idea of what to expect but newcomers will need to learn the intricacies of a Shovel Knight game.
There’s a lot to see, too, and King Knight certainly enjoys playing Joustus, a card game within the game. Cards feature notable players from the Shovel Knight series. To my surprise, Joustus is an exciting and well-thought card game that you can dive into. However, just like combat, it takes some time to adjust and adapt. The basic premise is to gain the most gems, by using your cards to cover the gems placed on the playing grid. However, you can’t just place the card onto the gem, you’ll need to push the card onto the gem with the arrows indicated on your cards. It’s a deeply satisfying game once you understand the rules and offer a robust campaign – even if it isn’t mandatory to finish King of Cards.
My biggest complaint is the lack of tutorials for Joustus. Other than the introductory going over the basics, you’re left to your own devices to pick up the mechanics and what strategies work best. If you lose a match, you lose a card. I found myself doubling down on playing the optional minigame, but you won’t have to worry about it being mandatory.
Furthermore, the series’ charm shines through. Between levels, you’ll find so many entertaining interactions between characters that put a smile on your face. I’ve forgotten how hilarious these games could be, but the humour is excellent. King Knight often deals with an overbearing mother who he argues with, leading to some hilarious interactions.
I wasn’t sure if Shovel Knight: King of Cards would keep me invested but I ended my playthrough eager for more. Sure, these are games made for fans of the Shovel Knight series but if you’re at all interested a competent platformer that will challenge you, this, as well its brethren are all worth checking out. If you already own Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, this is free for you and offers all expansions available. If you don’t own it, I highly recommend grabbing the bundle and then working your way through the series to experience this excellent game.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]