Nintendo Switch Owners Now Get to Experience the Greatness that is Shu
I have a confession to make. I absolutely love 2D platformers. I think what I love most about them is their simplicity. The majority of 2D platformers have the same objective: simply jump from platform to platform while avoiding (or killing) numerous waves of enemies. There’s no convoluted story to follow (most times) and they don’t require you to memorize long strings of button presses to perform the most basic of functions.
Since I’m always short on time, with a kid and a demanding work schedule, I appreciate that the majority of platformers can be completed in just a few hours. But, I have some important stipulations when it comes to my surface hopping enjoyment. As we all know, not all platformers are perfect. I personally need tight controls, fun abilities, good character design, and some awesome tunes to accompany my platforming experience. So, does developer Coatsink Software meet my hefty requirements with the creation of their 2016 platformer, but new to the Switch, Shu. Let’s find out.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
When a storm destroys his thriving village, our hero ,Shu, embarks on a dangerous journey to survive and escape the threat. Shu isn’t your typical hero though. He doesn’t carry a stockpile of guns on his back nor does he hop on an enemy’s head to kill them. Shu’s a bird-like creature and his only ability, besides being loveable, is floating. Yep, because of Shu’s tiny wings he can’t even fly. Shu can just jump and float. If he’s lucky, he can catch a gust of wind to float large distances. Actually, Shu doesn’t sound like a hero at all, does he? Well, Shu is pretty bad ass, but he needs a little help from his friends.
Early on in Shu’s journey he’ll come across obstacles that halt his progress. These obstacles are basic at the beginning of the game and usually involve an impassable wall or body of water. Lucky for Shu, there are several other villagers who are also trying to survive, but their progression has also been halted since they don’t have the ability to float. You know where this is going, right? By holding other villager’s hands, Shu can combine his floating ability with any other villager’s ability. With their abilities combined they can overcome any obstacle that gets in their way.
Every Little Bit Helps
Shu can have two villagers with him at a time, and he’ll acquire two different friends on each of the five lands that he must travel through. So those first two obstacles that I mentioned earlier; the impassable wall and body of water. Shu will be accompanied by both a villager who can walk on water, and another that can bust through walls. This leads to the majority of stages having fun layouts for Shu and his new friends to test their abilities with. Most levels are relaxing and will let you experiment with the abilities. But it’s not all going to be a cake walk. Some stages become fast paced, pulse pounding runs, with the storm right on Shu’s back.
At first Shu will only need to use one ability at a time, but during stages where the storm is chasing Shu, he’ll need to combine all three abilities simultaneously order to survive. Doing so is quite easy though since each ability gets their own dedicated button, with some abilities, such as walking on water, occurring automatically. Throughout my playthrough I never felt as though I had to quickly fumble through abilities.
The controls are actually perfect. Sure, I had some deaths, but they were totally my fault. I think I may have enjoyed Shu even more though if I was given more than two abilities to control at once though. Yes, having only two abilities made things easier, but some of the lands proved to be too easy. The final stage finally did combine all of Shu’s friends and their abilities, but again, it was only two at a time. Although, that final stage was tough as nails!
I did mention that a lot of stages did come off as too easy, and this is mostly because of the generous checkpoint system. Don’t get me wrong, I love checkpoints, but they’re in such an abundance that I never felt challenged. Every checkpoint that you come across during your travels will replenish all of your lost lives. However, if you manage to lose all five lives before making it to the checkpoint, you’ll have to start the level over. I personally only had to start over once, and that was on the final stage. It’s just something to consider, especially if you enjoy your platformers on the difficult side.
If you find that things are too easy, there is a whole lot more to do than just hopping along from left to right. There are a bunch of collectibles and secrets to discover. The majority of these are butterflies that (similar to Donkey Kong Country’s bananas) guide you to where you should be, but players that go off the beaten path can find other objects, including the five “babies” that are hidden in each stage. Finishing the stage also unlocks a stage’s time trial, which should be fun for those of you who enjoy speed running.
Kick Back and Enjoy the Finer Things in Life
When it comes to Shu’s music and visuals one word comes to mind, relaxing. The land is beautiful even though it’s getting ravaged by a deadly storm. Shu has the look of a Rayman title, sporting bright blue skies and watercolor backgrounds. Shu and all of his villager friends are hand drawn and downright cute. They also animate extremely well. Watching Shu tread above water for the first time had me smiling and embarrassingly saying, “awwww”. Actually, all of the characters are immensely enjoyable. I felt as though I personally had a connection with Shu though, and not just because he controlled so well.
The music that accompanies the visuals blend so well with the action that I didn’t even notice it. What surprised me most was when I heard the music growing louder, which was the game’s way of alerting me to a nearby secret. I love that! It wasn’t obnoxious either. I had to listen closely if I wanted to take advantage of the music. I even broke out a set of headphones to give the game my full attention! But I must say that not all of the tunes are relaxing. The sequences where Shu and his friends are getting chased by the storm has some heart pounding music to go along with the chase.
Fly Like an Eagle
I’m going to wrap up this review the way I started it – by listing my four requirements for a good 2D platformer. Here is how Shu stacks up: Tight controls – check. Fun abilities – check. Good character design – check. Awesome music – check. Yeah, this is my kind of platformer, and it will be yours too if you don’t mind a somewhat easy gameplay experience. That final stage will challenge you though. I can promise you that.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch(reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC; Publisher: Coatsink Software ; Developer:Coatsink Software; Players: 1 ; Released: January 23, 2018 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Nintendo Switch review copy of Shu given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.