King of Cards is more than just an expansion pack to Shovel of Hope - and while much of the level-to-level details such as the platforming, treasure collecting, and map screen movement remain functionally the same from this franchise’s first instalment, and will therefore be familiar to anyone who isn’t a complete newcomer to this series, this games does do enough different that it isn’t just a bland rehash.
King of Cards features a new hero - King Knight - first seen as an antagonist and boss battle in the first game, but back in action as this game’s hero. He has a completely different moveset, one that involves far less jumping and digging in favour of performing a short charge through any obstacle and drawing on a much wider variety of collectable inventory power-ups.
The premise for this new adventure is that King Knight is travelling the realms in search of opponents to beat at the new card game sensation that has swept the kingdom, and with this plot points comes King of Cards’ biggest shakeup of the Shovel Knight formula. The cards needed for this new game, ‘Joustus’, are unlocked as rewards in between platformer levels and used to play a large line-up of contestants in the between-stages and NPC towns. Joustus is in essence a puzzle minigame which involves placing pieces on a grid-board in such a way as to cover a larger amount of certain spaces than your opponents, taking turns to place cards which each have differing situational strengths and weaknesses.
The artwork in this new game is as fantastic as it ever is with Yacht Club, as is the delightfully catchy and thematically-true-to-the-NES-era music also shows that a lot of passion went into the game’s distinct style. It’s a good game, that’s fun to play, has a few decent comedy beats throughout its’ story, and also has Steam Achievements if you care about that sort of thing.