Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platform game presented in 8-bit graphics in which players control the eponymous protagonist as he collects treasure and fights against the Order of No Quarter. Shovel Knight's main means of attack is his shovel, which he can either use to attack enemies head on and dig up treasure, or aim below him whilst jumping to bounce on enemies, similar to the pogo jump from DuckTales. By finding a salesman hidden in most levels, the player can purchase secondary items that can be used with a limited supply of magic. These include long range projectiles, gloves that can punch through dirt blocks, and a locket that makes the player invincible for a brief period.
There are some gameplay features unique to certain versions of the game. The PlayStation versions of the game feature an exclusive boss battle against God of War's Kratos, while the Xbox One version features a fight with the Battletoads.
Aside from the main quest, which involves fighting through each level and defeating the boss at the end in order to progress through the world map, players are encouraged to collect as much treasure as possible. Treasure can be obtained by defeating enemies, finding chests, digging through the environment, and finding note sheets which also unlock music tracks. Any money earned can be spent in villages on various items, such as upgrades to health and magic, secondary items sold by the salesman, and armor and shovel upgrades that grant bonus skills. While the player does have infinite lives, dying will cause the player to lose some of their money, though the player can recover it by collecting the flying sacks that appear around where the player last died. For added challenge, players can also choose to destroy checkpoints to earn more treasure at the risk of being sent back further should they die.
Completing the game opens up a New Game Plus mode, which increases the overall difficulty of the game by making enemies tougher to kill and capable of dealing more damage, as well as limiting the number of checkpoints in a stage, though the player retains any relics and health and magic upgrades collected during their first playthrough. There is also a password system allowing players to input codes to unlock various cheats.
Kratos is exclusive to the Sony versions and will appear on the map as a wandering encounter once the Curious Map is obtained. He is only present in Shovel Knight's campaign.
The Grave Digger's Shovel is described as an old, worn shovel that appears to be covered in rust or blood and emits an eerie red glow. It is acquired by entering the mysterious area and defeating Kratos in battle. You get his respect and give you the Grave Digger's Shovel. Given to the Armorer he will be puzzled then beat on it with his hammer extremely violently until it breaks apologizes then makes the Armor of Chaos from the pieces.
Armor of Chaos, a plate of fiery fury. Collect orbs to fuel your rage! When the Armor of Chaos is equipped, Shovel Knight gains multi-hit combos reminiscent of Kratos' own attacks, but is unable to use upgrades purchased from the Shovel Smith. It also changes the Shovel Drop making it more like Black Knight's sudden immediate drop. Food and magic bottles dropped by enemies will be replaced with green and blue orbs that home in on the player. Upon defeating an enemy or landing a successful hit on a boss, there is a chance a red orb will appear. When a red orb is collected, Shovel Knight will glow red for a time. When red, your next attack will shoot a small wave of fire across the screen, doing one hit of damage to any enemies it comes into contact with.
Playable Characters |King Knight |Spectre Knight |Plague Knight |Shovel Knight
- Armor of Chaos, This armor is white with red decorations making it resemble Kratos' own pallor.
- Grave Digger's Shovel, When in possession it temporarily appears in your Relic HUB.
- Kratos is one from the 4 bosses that not fought in Plague of Shadows. The other 3 are The Big Creep, Remnant of Fate and the Battletoads.