If you’ve ever found yourself playing Shovel Knight and wondered what it would be like to battle against your friends as many of its characters, this one’s for you.
Shovel Knight Showdown is a multiplayer brawler in the series’ inimitable style. If you love Shovel Knight you’ll adore the way the game looks and sounds, and you’ll get to grips with its core mechanics in an instant. This is Shovel Knight, but with a multiplayer bent.
Story mode lets you experience the arcs of eight characters initially, with more becoming available as you play. And it doesn’t have to be a solitary affair, either: you can play with another in local co-op if you wish. Play on your own and you might sometimes be taking on opponents one-on-one, other times you might be outnumbered two-to-one or even three-to-one. And victory often isn’t just a case of whacking your opponents until they can’t take any more. The majority of matches you’ll win by simply collecting gems. In fact, with the action getting so chaotic, it’s often better to avoid combat for the most part and just focus on collecting gems until time runs out.
To spice things up a little, there are power ups that drop down the screen in bubbles. Burst the bubble with an attack and it’s ripe for the taking, unless it’s a bomb. Bombs drop straight to the floor, damaging enemies caught in their blast when they explode. The most valuable of power-ups is the magnet, which repels enemies away from you. Helpful when you don’t want to be hit, and also useful for knocking opponents into pits, instantly wiping away one of their lives. You’ll also find that NPCs occupy some stages, sticking their oar in from time to time, and in true Shovel Knight fashion, some stages have traps which you can fall victim to.
Outside of Story mode, there’s a Targets mode where your aim is to hit targets as fast as you can to score points. There’s also a Practice mode where you can brush up your skills, and a Battle mode where you can set up one-off battles against human opponents or the CPU. Shovel Knight Showdown only supports local multiplayer though: there’s no online. You can add bots and determine their difficulty level at least, and there’s a wide variety of match options to tinker with. If you’re indecisive, you can even let the game randomly create match types for you.
Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that you won’t find Shovel Knight Showdown fun in the slightest when playing in single-player. The awkward attacks of its characters, small stages and overly chaotic nature of the action makes it a pain to play and an assault on the senses. Of course, it’s more fun when playing with others, but that’s a given. Even the worst of experiences is better when you have a friend by your side. You just spend too much of your time playing Shovel Knight Showdown wondering what the hell is going on.
If you have friends to play it with and really love Shovel Knight, you probably will eke some entertainment out of Shovel Knight Showdown. There’s plenty of content to unlock, too. It really needed to have online multiplayer to make an impact though, as it’s only really enjoyable when played with others. Still, the fact that it’s free if you have the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove means it’s worth giving a go, but don’t expect it to keep you going back for more.