Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platform game. The game features 8-bit graphics designed to resemble classic games. The color scheme used adheres to the Nintendo Entertainment System's original color palette, and includes visual touches such as parallax scrolling. The player controls the eponymous Shovel Knight character, who wields a sharpened shovel that is used to attack enemies, destroy barriers, and dig up treasures. As a homage to the game DuckTales, the player can use the shovel as a pogo stick to bounce off obstacles or the heads of enemies.
Prior to the game, adventurers Shovel Knight and Shield Knight fought alongside one another, journeying across the world and seeking treasure. However, when the two explore the Tower of Fate, the two fall to the dark magic power of a cursed amulet. When Shovel Knight reawakens, the Tower has been sealed and Shield Knight is nowhere to be seen. Grieving for his beloved, Shovel Knight gives up adventuring and secludes himself. However, during his absence, the Enchantress rises to power, spreading evil across the land. Upon hearing that the Enchantress has unsealed the Tower of Fate, Shovel Knight takes up his shovel again and ventures towards it, hoping to find and rescue Shield Knight. In order to do so, Shovel Knight must fight the eight members of "The Order of No Quarter," who have been dispatched by the Enchantress to impede him.
Shovel Knight is the first video game developed by Yacht Club Games, directed by Sean Velasco. Velasco has stated that the game draws heavy influence from NES games, specifically Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, DuckTales, Super Mario Bros. 3, and the Mega Man titles. The game also draws influence from U.N. Squadron and Dark Souls. The game was announced on March 17, 2013 alongside the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund development, with a minimum funding goal of $75,000. The campaign reached this goal in late March and went on to collect a total of $311,502, fulfilling all announced stretch goals for additional features, by its end on April 13. The game was originally slated for release in September 2013, but was delayed into early 2014. Yacht Club Games announced on January 19, 2014 that development of the game had reached the alpha stage, and then announced on January 22 that the game would be released March 31, 2014. On March 12, the developer announced that the game was delayed on all platforms by "a few weeks." Yacht Club Games announced on June 5 that the game would be released on June 26, 2014.
Additional features earned through Kickstarter stretch goals include a four-player battle mode, a mission-based challenge mode, an additional mode that swaps all the characters' genders, and playable story campaigns for boss characters King Knight, Specter Knight, and Plague Knight. These features will be added as free updates to the game throughout the year.
To promote the Kickstarter, Yacht Club distributed copies of their initial Penny Arcade Expo demo to several prominent gaming personalities on YouTube, including Two Best Friends Play and Game Grumps. Shovel Knight will also be appearing as a playable character in the Wii U and PC game Hex Heroes.