Shovel Knight: Retro Charm in Spades

Shovel Knight is the ultimate NES game. It encapsulates everything that there is to love about the NES while cutting away all of the frustration of games from that era. There’s no question that games age better in our memories than in reality. To get a sense of this, just play an NES game for an hour. All but the greatest games from that era have aged significantly, in a bad way. Shovel Knight, on the other hand, is like the NES game that exists in your memory. It’s a concentrated dose of the 8-bit magic, more like the wonder that your imagination conjures up than like actual NES games.

Shovel Knight

I played Shovel Knight years ago on Steam, but the difficulty was too great for me. They are very difficult games, especially when you’ve just started the game and are coming to terms with it’s distinctive old school platforming challenges. After being successfully funded on Kickstarter, Shovel Knight started out as a single game, but later added expansions which recast the game’s villains as protagonists. To expand the game, the developer Yacht Club didn’t just create new levels, but introduced new mechanics in each of the new campaigns, creating new but familiar paradigms. It is a master class on how to create additional content for a game which is popular. There is one expansion, the final one, yet to be released later this year, titled King of Cards.

Shovel Knight

One feature which drew me to Shovel Knight was co-op, which allows you to adventure through the game with a partner. But while I love the idea in theory, I found that in practice it actually makes the game more difficult, as you are distracted by a second player on the screen. This co-op difficulty phenomenon is one I’ve noticed in other games also, like Cuphead.

The list of games which Shovel Knight drew inspiration from is long, and includes most of the best platforms of the 8-bit era. They are hilariously listed on Yacht Club’s website in a blog post titled “Ten Games That Copied Shovel Knight”. On that list: Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Duck Tales, Mario, Castlevania, Dig Dug, Double Dragon.

Shovel Knight

If you grew up playing any of these games as a child, I can’t recommend Shovel Knight enough. In particular, the “Treasure Trove” which includes all of the additional campaigns. I completed all of them in about 20 hours, and am looking forward to the final campaign which is a free addition coming this year.

Of the three campaigns in the game I’d say I enjoyed Specter of Torment the most, which is the prequel to the main Shovel Knight campaign. Each campaign’s protagonist moves and acts differently, and Specter having the ability to glide across the ground and climbs up walls grants a feeling of fast, fun mobility.

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is available for PC, Mac, Playstation, Xbox, and Switch. I played it on Switch.

Visit the Official Shovel Knight website

2018-06-01T06:13:30+00:00 Friday, June 1st, 2018|

The War of Art

The War of Art

The War of Art is about how creative professionals like artists and entrepreneurs overcome obstacles to complete meaningful work. It’s authored by Steven Pressfield, who also wrote another similar book on this subject called Do the Work, which also describes the same challenges in equally imaginative terms. They aren’t sober books on how to work as much as they are vivid characterizations of how we sabotage ourselves.

One of key ideas of this book is the principle of “Resistence”, which Pressfield defines as what keeps us from sitting down and committing to the work we have to do.

“Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.”

This book is deeply encouraging. It’s a strong reminder that we do matters a great deal.

Favorite Passages

“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it. It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

“The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life. The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake.”

“The moment a person learns he’s got terminal cancer, a profound shift takes place in his psyche. At one stroke in the doctor’s office he becomes aware of what really matters to him. Things that sixty seconds earlier had seemed all- important suddenly appear meaningless, while people and concerns that he had till then dismissed at once take on supreme importance.”

“I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”

“Marines love to be miserable. Marines derive a perverse satisfaction from having colder chow, crappier equipment, and higher casualty rates than any outfit of dogfaces, swab jockeys or flyboys, all of whom they despise. Why? Because these candy-asses don’t know how to be miserable. The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.”

Closing Thoughts

This book is fantastic and easy to recommend to anyone who has struggled with creative or professional obstacles (that’s everyone, right?). At under 200 pages, it’s not a long read, although if you’re looking for something even shorter, Do the Work is by the same author and is also very good. If you’re going to just read one, stick with The War of Art.


4.5 Stars

The War of Art on Amazon

2018-04-11T11:22:03+00:00 Wednesday, April 11th, 2018|