Shantae: Half-Genie Hero shows Shantae’s ability to be half-genie, half-zoo.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is the next step forward in the legacy of indie developer WayForward, as the fourth game in a series that began on the Game Boy Color, was brought back to life on DSi, and has become a bellydancing blockbuster success ever since. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was a huge success on Kickstarter in 2013, rocketing past its initial goal and towards additional playable characters and other goals. Last week at E3 2015, WayForward brought a special demo build of their upcoming adventure to the show floor, and released it for the purposes of giving everyone a first hands-on look at the game. With popping visual animation and some great music to back it up, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is another promising adventure for fans of the evil-fighting genie halfling.
The demo contains three levels: the first two are traditional sidescrolling fare, familiar to anyone who has played previous entries in the Shantae series. The third is something a little bit different, a sort of endless runner level with an emphasis placed more on timing than platforming. The first two levels both also contain different transformations for the magical bellydancer herself, who can turn into different animals with various skills depending on what her situation requires.
The first level takes place in a jungle setting, with lots of horizontals and verticals to explore. Old ruins tower above Shantae as she explores the trees and waterfalls, all scalable via jumping or riding moving platforms. Trident-wielding mermaids will leap out of the water, attacking Shantae with projectiles that fan out, dodgeable by jumping or crouching around them. A bit more easy than dodging, though, is simply taking the baddies out before they can strike, whipping them with Shantae’s, long, brilliantly purple hair. In this level, Shantae can turn into a monkey, whose small stature is made up for by an enhanced jump height, as well as the ability to wall-jump. The level ends with three captive girls in cages getting pulled into the deeper reaches of the woods, as Shantae runs off in pursuit.
Things get a little more complicated next, in the desert level. Here, Shantae has to deal with giant armored birds that throw other enemies down at her Lakitu-style, vicious sandstorms that blow her backwards despite any resistance, and pits of quicksand hungry for a bite of fresh genie. This level includes blocks that can be pushed into place using the offensive capabilities of Shantae’s ponytail, good for reaching high places and hiding from the intermittent sandy winds. This desert isn’t without an oasis or two, dotted as it is with deep pools of water perfect for swimming. Shantae isn’t much of a diver in her normal form, but in this level she can turn into a crab, who is happy and at home in the depths below. Crab-Shantae basically feels like deploying an anchor into the water, and moving it down as it sinks. She can still walk around and jump while in the water, though. An adorable, jumping anchor.
The third level is in nonstop motion, as Shantae slides down a ridiculously long conveyor belt spanning through acres of jungle. Despite being in constant downward motion, Shantae can still be controlled, sliding at a slower or faster pace using the same controls one would normally use to make her walk. She must jump over obstacles that come at her from behind and in front, leap over gaps in the track, and take down enemies trying to put the brakes on her joyride. This level stands out the most out of all three, bringing with it a feeling reminiscent of the Castle Rock stages in Rayman Legends. There’s no time for magical transformation in this level, though; only time for saving Shantae’s skin from a sudden, gravity-induced end.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is building up to something just as promising as one would expect from WayForward, especially as a celebration of the studio’s 25th anniversary. This crowdfunded tale includes transformations with unique mechanics, and new level design ideas that seem to be headed in the right direction. Stay tuned for more on Shantae’s biggest adventure yet!