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Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review: Re-Definition

/ Apr 6th, 2017 No Comments

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

Shovel Knight is a perfect example of a developer supporting a game and its fan base far beyond what anyone would expect. Since Shovel Knight’s 2014 release, developer Yacht Club Games has steadily put out free expansions (as well as porting it to new platforms) for the game. It shows an appreciation for both the fans and for what the game represents.

The newest expansion is Specter of Torment. It is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch for a short period before coming out as a free update on other consoles, and available as a standalone title or as part of the Treasure Trove bundle.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment once again redefines the mechanics of the core game. For everything that has changed, it retains everything that made Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope so compelling; the subtle story, the tight platforming gameplay, clevel level design, intense boss fights, and its steep difficulty.

A Scythe Full of Regret

Specter Knight has a great trial ahead of him. He must find eight worthy knights for the Enchantress. These eight warriors will become an army for her as the Order of No Quarter.

He must travel to their lands, face all obstacles and threats in his way, and find a way to recruit them.

Whatever means Specter Knight has to employ to convince these knights to join will be worth it because the Enchantress promised him a tremendous reward. The Specter Knight, before he became a thrall of the Enchantress, experienced a terrible fate.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

Specter Knight’s task is straightforward, but the story takes some turns.

He lost his life in the search for treasure. The Enchantress has promised to give him the ability to restore his life if he achieves her goal. However, he learns in the course of his task that things aren’t so simple.

Specter of Torment serves as an origin for the world of Shovel Knight seen in Shovel of Hope, but the story is not content with only showing how the Enchantress rose to power. It is also eager to tell a personal story of redemption and regret for Specter Knight. It is this personal story told through flashbacks and a sub-plot on the present that is compelling.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

A series of flashbacks play give context to Specter Knight’s plight.

The stakes are high for Specter Knight both in the original conceit and in his final choice. It is a bittersweet ending that leaves you feeling sorry for him and emphasizing with his tough decision. Much like Shovel of Hope, the story works on multiple levels.

Wall Jumpin’ and Grindin’

Specter Knight is a much more agile and nimble character than Shovel Knight. As a result, the level design and gameplay mechanics reflect the difference. Levels are redesigned with Specter Knight’s ability to wall jump and scythe slash in mind.

There is more verticality to levels and boss fights to make choice use of those abilities. It makes going back to these domains an inviting proposition rather than feeling like a re-tread because you want to see how they are re-imagined for the new mechanics.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

Specter Knight’s new moves give a new definition to Shovel Knight’s pitch-perfect platforming.

While Specter Knight is more agile with new ways to traverse levels, he also has a lot of new combat methods. His scythe slash is both a traversal move and an effective combat technique. It must be mastered in order to overcome platforming challenges and fight enemies effectively, especially bosses.

Propeller Knight is a great example of needing to use the scythe slash well. That fight is vertical, with a bunch of moving platforms constantly falling away or up. In order to survive and defeat this boss, you need to be aggressive with scythe slashes to use Propeller Knight as a way to keep from falling and to whittle away his health.

The scythe is a useful melee weapon, but Specter Knight would be nothing without his curios. Curios are powerful sub-weapons that Specter Knight can earn by collecting red skulls in levels and turning them into a Red Skeleton merchant at the Tower of Fate.

By completing short areas where you demonstrate mastery over the curio, you gain possession and the ability to use the weapon in levels. These curios become effective in avoiding platforming pitfalls, overcoming enemy dense areas, recovering treasure and punishing bosses.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment Review

The boss battles are still dope as hell.

There is plenty new about Specter of Torment, but what doesn’t change is the difficulty fans come to expect from Shovel Knight. Specter of Torment can be overwhelmingly difficult at times. It is a game that requires exemplary platforming skills, good reflexes and a strong memory. While it is tough, there is nothing more rewarding than clearing a level and beating its boss.


Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment is a fun re-imagining of the Shovel Knight world and its gameplay mechanics. The unique play style of Specter Knight makes it a delight to revisit the different Knights’ lands and make fighting the Order of No Quarter fresh and exciting.

If you haven’t played Shovel Knight, this is a great time to jump into the adventure, with Treasure Trove offering three excellent ways to experience the game. For Switch owners, Specter Knight is a must buy to play between sessions of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch using a code for the game provided by the developer.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Specter Knight plays wholly unique and different from Shovel Knight resulting in faster platforming and more flashy combat.


Despite being re-treads of familiar locations, Specter of Torment feels completely fresh with re-designed levels, central hub, and powers.


The soundtrack by Jake Kaufman is killer.


The story gives context to the events preceding Shovel of Hope while also telling a melancholic and personal story for Specter Knight.

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