Shovel Knight’s most recent addition to its overarching 2D platformer series, Shovel Knight: King of Cards, lets you claim your throne as King Knight as he explores the lands in order to become the King of Cards. Between battling monarchs, winning card games and meeting previous enemies, Shovel Knight: King of Cards is an experience different from any of the other Shovel Knight games from Yacht Club Games.
Shovel Knight: King of Card’s story seems basic from the outside, but gains depth as the game goes on. Before the events of Shovel Knight, a Card Game by the name of Joustus has popularized itself, and a tournament to beat the 3 Jostus Judges becomes of interest to King Knight. While he may play at royalty, he’s determined to create a kingdom of his own someday, and so he sets off to defeat the three kings. His mother sells homemade pies that grow King Knight’s Vigor and Health, and the bard gives the player gold and music.
Similar to the 3 games before it, Shovel Knight: King of Cards has players venture throughout different levels where they platform, fight enemies, and collect treasure and collectibles. The game shakes things up by having more smaller levels that don’t always end in bosses. To compensate for this, each of the 4 worlds ends in a boss, with over 30 total levels in the game. Some of the other bosses in the game can be found as wondering Mini-bosses, so fan favorites aren’t ignored.
Moves and Attacks
King Knight plays similarly to Shovel Knight in King of Cards, but he also has some differences. His main attack is a Shoulder Bash which lets him twirl after coming into contact with an interactable wall enemy or object. These moves make the game challenging for players used to Shovel Knights characteristic Shovel Drop. The Shoulder Bash is limited, and the twirl isn’t always available until you land that first hit.
To compensate for this, King of Cards allows the player to obtain Heirlooms, abilities that provide the player with different attack and movement options to fit different situations. These range from making yourself a spinning top to a slashing attack. This allows each playstyle to be unique in the methods you complete stages. However, the abuse of certain abilities can lead to the game being too easy or not fun for some people. Luckily, unlike the main games, you take 1 full health point instead of half.
King of Cards features the staple physics of Shovel Knight games that make it feel like a joy to control. Jumping and maneuvering through crevices and platforms are just as fun as it was years ago. This may depend on the person however, as sometimes King Knight can feel clunky and difficult to use. Getting used to his dashing ability is key to understanding his gameplay. You might get hit a lot during the first couple of levels, but more time playing will mitigate this.
Shovel Knight is also famous for its collectibles and this game is no exception. Along with Joustus cards and regular gold, King of Cards features Merit Medals, found in hidden places and rewarded for platforming challenges and defeating an opponent in Joustus. King of Cards also features Feats, an in-game achievement system.
The stages in King of Cards are custom made for King Knight. While the overall look of stages is from previous games, they have been upgraded with new and improved stage layouts and mechanics to better fit King Knight’s playstyle. As previously mentioned, they are also shorter, usually consisting of 1 to 2 checkpoints until you reach the goal. The more bite-sized levels allow each theme to be experienced and become more memorable. Even so, playing for a long time can make the levels feel monotonous and overstay their welcome.
Joustus is a minigame in which you duel other NPC’s in the game to a card battle. While different cards have different values, the goal is the same each time: Cover the most gems with your own cards. This is done by having either the enemy or yourself slide your card onto a Gem Spot. Cards have arrows that dictate the direction that allows them to slide cards. The player has to build their deck with unique cards that can change the flow of the board, from causing all cards to try and push each other to cause their arrows to reverse. Playing this side-game can also reap its benefits, as winning gets you better cards as well as upgrades for King Knight during regular stages. If you choose not to play it, the game has enough extras so you won’t miss out by skipping it.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards features the retro Chiptune styled track from the NES days that makes it feel like it could have been made back then. This game capitalizes on its royal theme by adding trumpets and horns to a lot of its songs. Adding on to this, the game features songs from the previous games as well as remixes of certain songs. This collection of music is certainly something not to be overlooked in this game.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards is a fun 2D platformer with surprising depth in its challenges and Joustus minigame. While not all of it is required to have fun, these experiences add up to make King of Cards an enjoyable romp to come back to and play now and then.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards receives a 9/10.