Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment - Steam/PC Review

A retro masterpiece.

Game Info

  • System: PC, Linux, Mac, Steam, Wii U, 3DS, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Publisher: Yacht Club Games
  • Developer: Yacht Club Games
  • Release Date: March 3, 2017 [Switch] | April 5, 2017 [Steam, Wii U JP, 3DS JP]

Dimension Jump Trailer

Who it Caters to

The name Shovel Knight should not be a surprise to anyone these days, as Yacht Club Games have designed a game that not only caters to an audience who grew up around the 16-bit era, but it speaks to a new generation by introducing them to the origins of where the roots of gaming started from. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment plays a lot like the classic side-scroller titles, more notably Mega Man, where you’re running around from stage to stage taking out enemies and collecting powerups to slay bosses.

Each stage you embark on comes with fresh new elements and so you’ll need to get accustomed to how everything works, in order to take out the stage boss effectively. Similar to the classic Mega Man series, as you traverse through the stage ascending or descending ladders, the camera will pan in the direction you’re headed in which just brings back all the nostalgia for players who grew up in the popular era. If you’re a huge fan of this type of playstyle where you’ll need to come up with certain strategies to win, then Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is certainly the right pick.

What to Expect

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is an absolute gem to experience, and there’s plenty to expect from this exciting title. As a title that’s inspired by Inafune’s works, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment takes all of what made Mega Man great, but throws in a very fresh feeling in terms of character interaction, fluid framerates, and intuitive controls. Everything about this game feels close to perfect and there’s always something new to explore as you dive deeper into the game. Speedrunners would be in heaven with this title because the game provides just enough challenge to test your skills to see just how quickly you can adapt and clear stages effectively. You will die a lot in the first several attempts at playing the game, but that’s precisely what hooks you and keeps the fire burning within to complete everything.

Gameplay

An Absolute Blast from the Past!

Yacht Club Games came into the industry with one mission, and that was to capture the hearts of those who have a love for the old school but to grab the attention of the new school. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment provides that in such a remarkable way that it’s hard to ignore. The minute you boot up the game you’re immediately greeted with an incredible soundtrack that would melt any retro gamer's, heart. You hop into the main story and right away you’re reminded of Mega Man 2, where each stage reflects that of a specific element such as fire, snow, wind, and ice. The enchantress has told you that you must go out and recruit more knights, and so now your goal is to gather as many as you can to create the Order of no Quarter.

Much like its Mega Man ancestor, Specter of Torment allows you to choose the desired path in hopes that your strategic endeavors may pay off. Every stage gradually increases in difficulty as Red Skulls become a little harder to obtain, and require a little more effort on your behalf. Instead of blasting enemies away with a Mega Buster you instead use your powerful Scythe to slice your way through and eliminate any threat that gets in your way.

Instead of collecting Relics as you would in previous Shovel Knight games, you collect what’s known as Curios which are your special abilities to take advantage of in battle. As more Red Skulls are collected, you can then take them back to headquarters where you can unlock new abilities which then can be used in various scenarios. One of the more exciting aspects about Specter of Torment is the Dash Slash, where if you’re airborne and see a gash symbol on an enemy or object, simply pressing the attack button will have you dash straight towards them in the direction you choose. This can be used as a tactical measure especially in boss battles because once you’re able to adapt to the patterns you can simply use the Dash Slash to avoid taking very little damage.

Another strategy that’s a throwback to the Mega Man series is that, once you’re actually hit your character is in hit stun invincibility. This means, for example when fighting the boss on the snow stage and you get hit by a snowball, your character will flash for a short period of time and this is where you can run over the spikes without dying. This strategy is so useful because it can help you to set up your attack methods more efficiently, and while you’re purposely taking damage you can always heal back up with your Will special ability.

That strategy doesn’t just apply to bosses, but also various parts in stages too. So if there’s an item that you really want to collect say a Red Skull, but an enemy is preventing you from approaching it, purposely take damage then use the Dash Slash right after to get to the platform easily. Of course saying this is very easy, but doing it consistently is another thing. Give it a try if you do ever find yourself in a pinch because it truly does help, though not 100% of the time. One thing to be wary of as well is that similar to Plague Knight, the Specter Knight has a pretty short jump so paying attention to your spacing as you race through every level is imperative.

We often times fell to our death because we just didn’t pay attention to the gap, or there were plenty of occasions where we tried to quickly scale the walls only to fall to our death. It’s not that the control scheme is poor, it’s that Specter of Torment isn’t meant to be an easy feat. It’s not so much a game about rushing, but more a game about proper timing and placement. That in itself is what makes speedrunning look fast and flawless, not the rushing factor. One other great aspect about Specter of Torment is that, at the Tower of Fate, the headquarters itself acts as a tutorial for new players. You can freely run around and get accustomed to the abilities that Specter Knight has while understanding the mechanics behind the game.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

Overall, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is just an all out action side-scroller that touches the hearts of just about everyone, and provides a truly exhilarating experience. While the game may frustrate you at times with its unforgiving stage layout and boss battles, that’s the true beauty of it. You’re never satisfied with your performance and will do just about anything to improve not only on your accuracy and speed but to avoid taking damage or even dying. It’s a game that teaches you how to plan ahead, think through your approach, and then swing like a madman once you’ve fully committed.

For casual players, this is a truly genuine experience, but for speedrunners or those who are fond of the Mega Man franchise, it’s another challenge waiting to be completed. Whether it’s trying to collect every single Red Skull without dying, or beating a boss without taking one hit, Specter of Torment has every element of thrill thrown into the mix which is enough to keep you hungry for more.

Honey's Pros:

  • Paying homage to one of the greatest titles out there is a huge plus.
  • Love the character designs and stage layouts.
  • The soundtrack is outstanding.

Honey's Cons:

  • The game felt too short and perhaps needs more to keep you coming back. Online features maybe?

Honey's Final Verdict:

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is nowhere near tormenting, that is unless you’re speedrunning it and are trying to aim for a certain time. Only then will the game get to you and makes things a little irritating. For the casual player, however, Specter of Torment is a game that gives you the freedom to approach the game in whatever way you desire, without taking too much away from the overall retro experience. We highly recommend this game to anyone, whether you’re new to the series or have played past Shovel Knight games. Let us know what you think of Specter of Torment in the comments down below, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date! Also, if you enjoy our reviews share them with your friends and the world by retweeting and liking on social media.

As always, for all things sweet, with news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.

Rob

Editor/Writer

Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

100% Vegan. A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and join me on Discord! Take care!

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