S is for Shovel Knight: King of Cards

The third and final expansion of Shovel Knight, King of Cards is a direct prequel to the original game staring King Knight, the first of the Order of No Quarter that you fight as Shovel Knight in the original. Expanding on his buffoonery and blowhard attitude, you get to dive into his character and his motivations. A worthy sendoff to the first chapter of Shovel Knight, I’d definitely recommend picking up King of Cards, or if you’ve already got the Treasure Trove, definitely play it.

In terms of the gameplay, the platforming in KoC is probably most similar to the original Shovel Knight campaign, retroactively retitled Shovel of Hope. The biggest change is that the default attack is the Shoulder Bash, and you have to start with that in order to jump on top of bad guys to hurt them. Regular jumps won’t work, and just like you had to down-thrust with the shovel in the original, you have to be spinning to hurt baddies in this one. The platforming challenges are fair, and not too difficult. The controls are snappy. When you fall or die, rarely does it feel like it’s not your fault.

The overworld map is similar to the first two Shovel Knight campaigns, which in turn are reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. There’s a new wrinkle this time around, in that there are secret exits and alternate paths through the worlds. The levels are shorter individually, but there are significantly more of them. The developers have claimed that this is the longest of the four main campaigns, and I’m inclined to agree. (Though technically I haven’t finished Plague of Shadows yet, so I can’t speak definitively.) There’s also a wealth of optional collectibles to entice the completionist.

Speaking of collectibles, I have yet to mention Joustus, the in-game card game that kicks off the whole adventure. In the vein of Gwent and Triple Triad before it, Joustus is a card game that you can play with NPCs in the game world. King Knight sets off to become the King of Joustus by defeating the three Joustus Judges. The game is actually surprisingly deep, strategic, and replayable. If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, however, fear not; Joustus is completely optional.

Or maybe not….

If you’re a fan of retro-styled games in general, or the Shovel Knight franchise in particular, King of Cards is a can’t miss entry. Definitely track it down and play it.

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