Shu just recently released on the Nintendo Switch, and it harkens back to some of the great sidescrollers of time past like Rayman, Donkey Kong Country, and Sonic… but does it live up to their legend?
Shu: A Platformer for You?
Shu isn’t exactly a new game even though it’s just now making its way to the Nintendo Switch. Having originally released in late 2016 on PS4, PS3, and PC, followed by a Vita release last May, and finally on Switch a few days ago. It garnered pretty favorable reviews on Metacritic across the board for its unique art, exceptional music, and sheer fun factor. Although, not everyone thought it had staying power to stay fresh on your mind after finishing it. So what did I think?
Well, after playing it for a bit, I started to see why the reviews are so positive. Not only was I enjoying the fast-paced platforming nature of the game, but its music, tight controls, and challenging yet smooth platforming kept my interest. The game even has plenty of secret hidden items within each level to keep you coming back for those who like 100% completion marks and more.
Simple, Yet Fun
Shu doesn’t try to be something it’s not, nor does want you to think it is. The opening cutscene doesn’t give you too much to go on other than what looks like the village elder bird tells you a storm is coming that will consume everything. He then tasks you to run to some tower and prevent it from destroying everything. You run off in distress as he fends off the cloud monster… thing and, ultimately, meets his demise. This is where you jump in.
It wasn’t very deep, it was told in half moving stills, and didn’t use much of anything in the audio category. So with that, the game throws you in and lets you discover how to play. With not much handholding you’re off running for this tower in the mountains. You have the ability to run, jump, and glide to avoid obsticals and falls, and there are butterflies all over the level for you to collect. They don’t give you anything other than a rating at the end of the level, but those completionists will find themselves going back to find them all. You can also find 6 bird eggs, and a mural piece in each level. Once you complete each one, you can also do a time trial to do speed runs. And lastly, you can Master each level by getting a gold butterfly rating, collecting all 6 babies, finding the mural piece, and beating the level without dying.
Each level has its own unique challenges and quirks. From different platforms to hazards, and in some levels, a bird companion that grants you a special ability as you guide them to safety at the end of the level. Some will be able to break through floor pieces, others can walk on water, or control platforms and more. They keep the levels interesting, while also opening up a lot more for exploration so you can find all those hidden items. These companions also leak into the platforming of each level too, so if you’re just running through it, you may have a hard time.
Controls and Polish
As the article begins, Shu isn’t a new game, just being released for a new system, so an extra level of polish and shine is expected. Of course, being on a less powerful system, and a hybrid handheld at that can be tricky. Luckily, Shu didn’t have any performance issues throughout my entire playthrough and shined in all areas the developers wanted. From beautiful, yet simple hand-drawn graphics to simple and responsive controls.
The only thing I found a bit frustrating was I’d get caught on a lip of an edge or platform here and there, and it caused me to die and go back to the last checkpoint. The most frustrating time was at a point where you were supposed to do a wall jump back and forth with giant thorns in-between each jump, but I would get caught on the same wall frequently (when there was no reason I should have stopped my jump) that caused me to die several times in a row. They felt unfair, but it also didn’t feel like the developers intended this, it just happened due to some small clipping issue or something.
In the end, the good far outweighed the bad in this category, so after taking a second to step back and slow down on my approach to that part of the level, it was easy to progress past it.
But is it Worth the Investment?
I tend not to play too many indie games, although my reviews of late will tell you otherwise, however, it has been a valuable lesson. Having reviewed several indie titles in the past few months, and 3 in the last couple of weeks, I am finding that these small yet passionate titles are what got me into games in the first place back in the early days of gaming. Sure, they may not have been called “indie” games back then but these games are often of a similar quality of games in the Super Nintendo Era.
Shu definitely takes its inspiration from games like Rayman, Sonic, and Donkey Kong, and that’s a good thing. Those are all great games, however, I can’t shake the feeling that this game won’t have a similar lasting appeal to those industry classics. The asking price of $10 feels like a good meeting point for gamers. Especially with the ability to complete in short order, although, the sheer amount of reasons they give players to come back almost makes up for it.
It’s a game I can give to my kids knowing they will enjoy the hand drawn graphics and simple sound. Will you care about the game a year after you’ve played it, or will you recommend it to your friends after you’ve completed it? I honestly can’t say. It’s a fun playthrough, but you likely won’t be telling everyone how great it is once you finish it. Although, if it comes up in conversation, you’d be likely to tell them it’s worth a look.
Review Code provided by the publisher. Review based on the Nintendo Switch Version. Also available on PS4, PS4, PS Vita and PC via Steam.