Shovel Knight: King of Cards – First Sip Review

king of cards

Shovel Knight: King of Cards is the third and final story DLC for Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. Yacht Club Games has spent a lot of time and a ton of energy on the game. Shovel Knight: King of Cards is no different. It is a fantastic adventure, a wonderful reason to revisit the Shovel Knight universe, and it may be the best part of the entire Treasure Trove.

Competing for the Joustus Crown!

Long ago, the lands were untamed and roamed by legendary adventurers. But out of nowhere, the unmatched game of Joustus took over and became the new sensation! From peasants to the king, fans of Joustus were truly everywhere. Since the dawn of its inception, three worthy leaders became the Joustus Judges, and they serve the lands as the true champions of the game.

However, whoever defeats all three judges will win an incredible treasure and be crowned King of Cards! Competing for the Joustus Crown is no laughing matter, and our kingly hero will scheme his way to victory and toward a kingdom that he can call his own.

King Knight confronts Specter Knight

STORY

King Knight wants to be a real king so badly. He will do whatever it takes to get a crown and a kingdom! So when he sees the King of Cards tournament, where the winner receives the Joustus Crown, a new plan emerges and our overly confident King Knight sets forth to retrieve his long-awaited crown.

King of Cards is equal parts charming and funny. The amount of times I laughed out loud at the developing story is immeasurable. Seeing how the childish King Knight interacts with everyone was a joy to watch. And each new NPC, friend, or enemy just added so many layers to the fun and memorable story.

King Knight is simply tasked with defeating the three Joustus Judges in order to obtain his crown. But along the way, he grudgingly befriends so many people, including his sweet old mother. It is a story about growth, confidence, and community. King of Cards was one of the most entertaining stories I have experienced in an indie game in a long, long time. It alone is a reason worth playing the game.

King Knight taking a bow after defeating Baz

GRAPHICS

The graphics for the entire Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove package is amazing. The brilliant pixel art during the cut scenes and screen shots really pop out. The animation is fluid. Because of this, it is one of the prettiest non-NES, NES-looking games out there.

King Knight and all of the stages throughout King of Cards are just littered with fantastic design and attention to detail. As a result, the level of graphics is considerably high, a bar set by the original Shovel Knight campaign.

The Buzz in the Grotto / Troupple Pond Theme

SOUND

King of Cards mostly borrows from the previous games regarding its sound and soundtrack. However, where the game differs tremendously is in the remixes. Many of the songs from the previous campaigns have been given a royal finish, and they are a joy to listen to.

The soundtrack to King of Cards is of the highest quality. The chiptunes are a grand callback to the NES-era where game soundtracks like Mega Man 2, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid really stood out. As a result, I would boldly equate the soundtrack to King of Cards to that of the best Mega Man chiptunes.

The songs are composed by Jake Kaufman of Shantae fame and Manami Matsumae of Mega Man. With a pedigree like that, how can the soundtrack be anything but awesome?

FOR ROYALTY!

GAMEPLAY

Shovel Knight: King of Cards is the most ambitious of all the campaigns because it is essentially two games in one. You have the perfectly controlled platformer that comes with every game prior, but you also get a complex card game called Joustus.

Royal Platforming

As with all the Shovel Knight campaigns, fighting, dodging, and platforming are your basic controls for a lot of King of Cards.

King Knight differs from previous characters in that his main attack is a shoulder trust that leads to a jumping spinning attack. This can be performed while standing or mid-jump. It is an interesting combination that takes some getting used to, and it creates for some awesome gameplay, puzzling platforming, and wonderful fights with bosses and other notable enemies.

One thing that Yacht Club Games brought to King of Cards that is so nostalgic and fun is secret paths. Many stages in the three main worlds contain hidden areas that lead you to a pink ring or a pink arrow. Completing these areas will reward you with a pink rat ring to carry you off and a different path opening on the map. This approach makes playing levels more than once a ton of fun. In many ways, those stages can feel like two different experiences because of that.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards
Oh. Where will this path lead me?

The Royal Upgrades

Since King Knight is kind of a one-trick pony, special moves serve to mix the gameplay up. The Rat Bombardier can be thrown to take out enemies or breakable walls from a difference. The Bubble Frog can save you in desperate situations or carry you long distances. And the Scorching Saber can do heavy damage to your enemies. The items use up vigor, which is like King Knight’s MP. Each item is unique and creates for mixed gameplay experiences within each stage. Some areas can only be accessed by implementing certain abilities, so learning them is essential.

Yacht Club Games created yet another perfectly balanced and challenging platformer. My experience was never sullied by cheap deaths, poor enemy or platform placement, or bad RNG. It is a wonderful platforming experience, as I expected from the company that brought us the original Shovel Knight.

King of Cards also includes many of the amazing things already in the previous campaigns. There are plenty of mini-bosses to encounter, lots of special moves to learn and master, treasure hunting levels that will challenge your skills, items to buy, and so much more. The action platforming is plenty for the asking price, but there is more.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards
A simple game of Joustus

The Mighty Joustus

Joustus is a card game within King of Cards that compliments the story and King Knight’s character. At first glance, Joustus seems like just another silly card game, but after a quick couple rounds, the depth of the game begins to seep in.

The goal of Joustus is to claim the most green gems by the time all the center tiles are claimed. Cards can be pushed in certain directions or even off the center tiles. The tiles outside the center are knocked out and can no longer be interacted with. Arrows on the edges indicate that cards cannot be pushed certain directions. When you are first introduced to the card game, this all sounds like child’s play, but then the challenges come quickly.

Once you get your first deck and learn the rules, you enter the House of Joustus. This is a meeting place for amateur-level NPCs and the start of your Joustus training.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards
A level 3 Tinkerbot! I finally got one!

The Joustus Challenge

As you continue playing through King of Cards, you begin to notice new types of cards entering the fray. Each proceeding area brings with it new level cards and challenges, and needless to say, the NPCs get a lot smarter and more strategic.

Defeating certain bosses or entering secret areas might nab you some rare cards that will benefit your game. Collecting and buying cards feels like a real-world experience as well. And building your 16-card deck becomes one of the most important decisions in the game.

The amount of depth and challenge that Joustus brings to King of Cards sets it apart from the previous campaigns. It genuinely feels like playing two excellent games in one. Moreover, I would be shocked if Yacht Club Games does not release a multiplayer Joustus app for smartphones. It is honestly that good.

OVERALL

Shovel Knight: King of Cards
Breath it in, King Knight.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards is an absolute blast! From its zany and fun storyline to its top-notch gameplay, it is an experience of the highest value.

Yacht Club Games has really outdone themselves with this one. It is a brilliant game from start to finish and an experience no one should miss. In my eyes, Shovel Knight: King of Cards is perfect.

For all things Shovel Knight and indie, including previews, reviews, and news, make sure to keep an eye on The Sip.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards Links

Yacht Club Games Home Page
Steam
Switch
Twitter

Shovel Knight: King of Cards Review Summary
  • STORY
  • GRAPHICS
  • SOUND
  • GAMEPLAY
5

Summary

Shovel Knight: King of Cards is the perfect way to complete Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. It has an amazing and hilarious story, the same fantastic graphics, music, and sounds from the other campaigns, and its gameplay is the best that Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove has to offer. A wonderful game from start to finish, and a game that I absolutely recommend.

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