Compsmag is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission fee. Learn more

Shovel Knight: King Of Cards Review

King of Cards, the third Shovel Knight expansion, almost feels like a full sequel. Starring the memorable King Knight, it shifts back to the gameplay of the original Shovel Knight adventure in both structure and execution. It is filled to the brim with several challenging levels, much more refined and focused than before by building on the established strengths of this enduring franchise. This is our Shovel Knight: King Of Cards Review.

Shovel Knight: King Of Cards Review: About

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS, Macintosh
  • Developer: Yacht Club Games
  • Publisher: Yacht Club Games
  • Genres: ‎Platform game
  • Release Date: December 10, 2019

Shovel Knight: King Of Cards Review: Official Trailer Video

Shovel Knight: King Of Cards Review: Gameplay

Shovel Knight: King of Cards acts as a precursor to the events in the original game in the same way as Specter of Torment did after King Knight before his introduction to the Order of No Quarter. It’s a humorously written story that gives more insight into the sulky and selfish (but always entertaining) self-proclaimed king as you fight across the country to claim your namesake through a frivolous Joustus tournament. This is a new card game that engulfs the kingdom, driven by three of the best players in each of the regions you visit and claim for yourself.

King Knight’s adventure falls squarely at the standard Shovel Knight fare, with King of Cards in structure most similar to the original experience of the three expansions and closest to a sequel in its scope. There is the same Super Mario Bros. 3-style upper world map that you can work through in different ways. You can select the shortest path to the boss battle in the region or enjoy exploring by using alternative levels exits to create pathways to secret stages filled with valuable loot or new weapons and abilities.

Stages inherit familiar themes from the series, from Plague Knight’s neon-soaked labs to the gold-laden walls of King Knight’s future abode. Revisiting these areas is initially welcoming – a journey back to a familiar world – and makes some of the newer stages stand out more, as you may not see them for the fourth time, as the returning ones. King of Cards feels like a celebration of Shovel Knight and his world, but it can sometimes be too indulgent in his return to boss fights and stages you may have witnessed several times.

However, King Knight’s proprietary moveset keeps combat and platforms feeling fresh, while also remaining true to Shovel Knight’s original stream. Its standard attack is a horizontal dash and bash, which you throw into the air upon contact with an enemy or a wall. When launched into the sky, King Knight turns into a dangerous spider, allowing you to jump between enemies while damaging them till you hit the ground again.

It is reminiscent of Shovel Knight’s vertical attack without choosing the extra benefit when you can execute it. Instead, you need to carefully connect multiple dashes with reactive movements in the air that keep the chain spinning for the best effect, studying the different attack patterns of enemies to choose the right time to engage and the best window to exit. It gives combat a much faster pace than any other leading protagonist and maintains its satisfaction despite the recycled enemies.

This puts a spin on platforming, with each stage designed appropriately to challenge your understanding of King Knight’s unique movement. While Specter Knight was able to jump and slide through lanterns, King Knight feels more reserved. Most walls can be dashed to initiate a higher jump, but levels will routinely shake things up with elements that limit and change the way you perform this simple action. Slippery ice-smeared platforms, for example, add serious momentum to any of your landings, while walls overgrown with vines prevent you from hitting them from certain angles.

King of Cards has many, many stages that you can tackle and scratches the same kind of itch as previous entries in the series. But it also has a whole new playground in Joustus. Central to King Knight’s quest is a card game that has captivated the country and fills taverns in each of the game’s unique areas with challenging opponents. In Joustus, you use a 16-card deck to strategically move cards you have placed on a board to green gems. Once the board is full, and a player can no longer move, the player with the most cards on the gems on the board wins.

Sellers and defeated opponents will reward you with cards to build your deck, with their unique skills adding to the complexity of the matches that follow. Initially, cards are engraved with arrows that indicate clues that others can push onto the board. Still, before long, they contain effects that allow you to destroy other cards, change their loyalty to players, or push them far beyond the standard single square. It takes a little time to adjust to the rhythm that Joustus requires, especially when you consider how to move your cards on the board to inescapable areas. But it’s a challenging sideline that acts as a rewarding break from the demanding platforming, balancing the overall pace of King of Cards.

Standard progression will not be closed by Joustus if you choose not to play the card game at all, despite the rewards attached to it. Sellers even offer cheats that make every Joustus game a trivial affair, so you can reap the rewards without having to worry about building cards and collecting cards if you’re only here for the standard Shovel Knight rate. It’s easy enough to ignore the cheats if you want to feel the rush of a strategically demanding game from Joustus, but not dark enough to miss if you’re looking for an easy way out.


Whether you challenge enemies at a tavern table or forget them with your scepter, King of Cards is comfort food if you’re already craving Shovel Knight. It does not deviate from its established formula and often remains closer to the format of the first game in the series than to the more experimental expansions that followed. And while the well-balanced platforming and demanding combat is a treat, using existing boss fights and enemies with little to no change in their mechanics takes up part of the surprise from these exciting encounters.

That’s it for our Shovel Knight: King Of Cards Review. Also, read our Dragon Quest XI Review

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

Starring the memorable King Knight, it shifts back to the gameplay of the original Shovel Knight adventure in both structure and execution.

Compsmag AU