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PAX Prime 2015 Hands-On: Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

Jonathan Higgins

It“s not a secret to everybody. I love Shovel Knight. I purchased new merchandise at PAX Prime just because. I wish it could have been the amiibo. Heck -- I was there at "Nindies at Night" to see the amiibo unveiled in person.


I am a super-fan; make no mistake. And my love for the game is fairly balanced by my skill. I“ve completed the full game on PS4 and 3DS, and finished the harder New Game+ on the latter. While I don“t consider myself a “Master of Shovelry”... I“m certainly no slouch.


...Told you all that to tell you this: Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows is an all-new campaign featuring Plague Knight from the Order of No Quarter, in a quest to create the ultimate spell. And when I say all-new, this is what I mean: the basic settings of the game are unchanged. Levels playable in the demo at PAX Prime included the first level fans already know and love, Pridemoor Keep and The Lich Yard. But there are new paths, new music tracks, a new story, and... well... Plague Knight turns everything about Shovel Knight gameplay on its head... and blows it to smithereens.




I didn“t get a chance to play Plague of Shadows at "Nindies at Night" when I was there. The story I'm about to tell of this poor girl, a seasoned Shovel Knight veteran, proves that Plague Knight“s campaign changes everything. She picked the Lich Yard as her level to try. And when she exploded the bush-thing that Shovel Knight would usually bounce from to propel himself high enough to clear the level“s first gap... the entire line of ten people couldn“t figure out how to make Plague Knight clear that jump.


As it turns out...one of the key mechanics of controlling Plague Knight involves mastering his Burst Mode, which is activated by holding Y on the Gamepad & 3DS, and propels Plague Knight upward while firing a projectile. His Burst Mode is just one of many aspects of Plague Knight“s gameplay you can customize to your liking.


During my time with the game, I tried both the Lich Yard and Pridemoor Keep. The two different levels treated me to two different kinds of burst techniques, so I assume they will be plentiful. The bullet burst fired a laser-like projectile in the direction Plague Knight was facing when he jumped, and the Spin Burst devastated foes around me when I initiated the jump.




As Shovel Knight, mechanics to master included Relics, simple shovel slashes, and using your shovel as a sort of pogo-stick to bounce off foes and projectiles. Plague Knight has none of this -- instead of shovel-work, you“ll be mastering bomb throwing. You can control whether his bombs explode on impact or after a short while, and you can control the manner in which he tosses his bombs.


All the ways you can customize this gameplay add up to experiences I couldn“t possibly describe without going into detail about how the subtle nuances of bomb-lobbing affect jumping physics. It“s definitely something seasoned Shovel Knight experts should look forward to experimenting with themselves.


Plague of Shadows isn“t all new... but it“s definitely new enough to make me think I should be paying money to play it. But nope... it“s coming to all versions of Shovel Knight -- even the physical ones -- absolutely free. Yacht Club games have said development of the game is done... so expect it very, very soon. For more information on both Plague of Shadows and Shovel Knight, check out Yacht Club Games“ official website!


(And don“t worry, y“all: I spoke to Nick Wozniak from YCG. He“s said the Shovel Knight amiibo will be more plentiful than Nintendo usually makes them...he hopes!)

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