Shovel Knight is probably one of the most popular indie games of all time – and with good reason: it’s good fun, it has a nice art style and a wonderful soundtrack. While it is just one main game, Yacht Club Games have been kind enough to release new campaigns periodically – these add new characters, levels and stories. Though they have a lot in common with the original Shovel Knight campaign, they each do something new and I’m going to treat and review them as if they are separate games.
The first of these free new campaigns was Plague of Shadows. In this game, you play as Plague Knight, who had previously appeared as a boss within the first Shovel Knight campaign. In my opinion, he was one of the enemy knights with the most interesting design and it’s fun to get a chance to take control of him. Having said that, it does take a little while to get used to the way that Plague Knight plays – he throws bombs at his enemies and can also use them to launch himself into the air. In the earlier parts of the game, I found this quite tricky to get the hang of and lost quite a lot of times. Being unable to hurt enemies by jumping on them like Shovel Knight does means you have to think about things in a very different way. However, throughout the game you get the opportunity to buy new bomb-casings and new types of explosive powder, these change the types of explosion that the bombs create and the way in which Plague Knight is launched in the air. With lots of options available, you can essentially customise how Plague Knight plays and eventually he ends up feelings extremely powerful.
Plague of Shadows is set during the same time as the first Shovel Knight campaign, but from Plague Knight’s perspective. You actually end up crossing paths with Shovel Knight a few times (which is good fun) and he’s even a boss fight. It seems that while Shovel Knight was out on his quest, Plague Knight was out trying to obtain the “essence” of all the other knights so that he could create the Ultimate Potion. He travels through all of the same levels as Shovel Knight, but the changed gameplay makes the experience feel very different. The village areas are all different for Plague Knight too and you get to explore his underground lair as a hub area, which is a nice touch. I also quite liked the storyline about Plague Knight’s relationship with his partner in alchemy, Mona – it was genuinely quite sweet.
Overall, I think it’s great that everyone who owns Shovel Knight was given Plague of Shadows as a free download. To this day, if you buy Shovel Knight, you get all the extra campaigns added for free. If I’m completely honest, I probably preferred Shovel Knight’s campaign over Plague Knight’s campaign, but both are great and both still capture the magic of perfectly realised 8-bit graphics and sound.