The game itself is similar to both Shovel of Hope and Plague of Shadows. It is a 2D platformer that has you fighting boss battles at the end of every level. What is different from Shovel and Plague is Yacht Club Games has gotten rid of the world map. In the previous games you used the world map to travel from level to level (like Super Mario World), but in Specter, you just jump straight to any level via a portal (think Mega Man games). I missed the world map, and I wonder why they did not include it here. I think they were going for the Mega Man feel here, but it just feels like they dropped a feature due to time.
Speaking of time, this game is a lot shorter than both Shovel and Plague. It took me about six hours to beat the game, where Shovel and Plague took me ten and twelve hours, respectively. This is a quick game that you can beat in a day.
Another thing that I felt that Yacht Club Games scaled back on is story. Both Shovel of Torment and Plague of Shadows had great stories and characters. Specter of Torment does not have as grand of a story. This leads me to care less for the characters than in previous games.
The one thing that Yacht Club Games does nail is level design and controls. They are tight. The mechanics of Specter Knight are really cool with his wall scale, the ability to jump off walls, and the ability to do what I will call a "lunge attack" in air. I cannot tell if they reused previous levels from the other games, but it does not really matter, they are still great. I actually finished this game a while back, and then played it again for this review and I still had a lot of fun.
The boss battles in this game range from really easy to moderate difficulty, kind of inline with the previous releases of Shovel Knight games. I found that I could beat all bosses with some ground attacks and in-air lunge attacks. I was not really surprised by this given the difficulty of the boss battles in the previous games.
Secondary items, called Curios, were neat but not really needed to beat the game. The only one that I used all the time was the healing item. The rest were fun to get and try out but were barely needed to solve the puzzles and beat enemies.
Overall I enjoyed this game, and will play it again. The story wasn't quite there for me, but the level design and controls were top notch. Overall, I would rank it as my least favorite in the series, but still fun.
The review for this game came from the Switch version. Specter of Torment is also available on the PC, Wii U, 3DS, PS4, Vita, PS3, Xbox One and Fire TV.
Yacht Club Games provided Cheerful Ghost with a Switch download key for Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which Specter of Torment is part of.