Shu: Switch review

  • Format: Switch (Reviewed), PS4, PC, Vita (yes, really)
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Coatsink Software
  • Developer: Coatsink Software, Secret Lunch
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://coatsink.com/games/shu/
  • Game code provided by the developer

Already sitting comfortably on a few other formats for a while, Shu has now made its way to Switch, bringing the DLC with it as part of the package. What is Shu? Shu is thing you put on foot. Okay, okay, no more lazy and obvious jokes. A good way to describe it, although it’s an odd comparison in many ways, is that this is like Sonic The Hedgehog… only better.

To slam the brakes on your expectations a little, we need to point out that (a) we’re thinking of the very first few Sonic games, and, to slay a sacred cow, (b) we are of the belief that those games are overrated. In and of their time, they were impressive; but they haven’t aged brilliantly. Our main criticism is that they were games which set themselves the daft goal of emphasising speed in levels which regularly featured slow-moving platforms and fiddly jumps.

There are no enemies in Shu – at least, none that you can attack – and your odd little bird chap’s top running speed is nowhere near Sonic’s. However, it’s clearly a game that encourages people to run non-stop from the start of the level to the end each time. Sometimes, you have no choice but to keep moving. The plot is little more than ‘escape the anthropomorphised storm’, and now and again this storm will chase you through a level. Most of the time, you’re free to take things at your own pace… but encouraged to show off.

Your own abilities go no further than run, jump, and glide. That said, you’ll temporarily gain the help of one, two, or even three fellow bird-mutants at a time, each of whom have a unique ability that you can take advantage of while they’re by your side. One for example allows you to fly on updrafts (leading to Flappy Bird style sections), another gives you a double jump, another the ability to smash through certain objects, another the ability to turn jets of air on and off, and more. This near-constant swapping of abilities is used not for puzzles, but for platforming sections that test your reactions and your planning in fresh ways. It works really well.

Most of the time, simply getting to the end of the stage is fairly easy. However, each level is dotted with hundreds of collectible butterflies, six adorably named “babbies”, and a stone tablet piece. Picking everything up in one run is the real challenge, especially during the sections where you’re under pressure. It’s perfectly designed for speed runs and streams; pulling off a neverending chain of pixel-perfect jumps, secret nabbing, and perfectly-timed ability uses looks as satisfying as it feels (and that’s the playstyle that the design gently but insistently nudges you towards).

Unfortunately, there’s little incentive to revisit levels to score a perfect run in this way and/or shave seconds off your time. With nothing to unlock and no online leaderboards, these achievements won’t earn you much more than the right to give yourself a smug look in the mirror. The ‘Caverns of the Nightjars’ DLC (only unlocked when you’ve beaten the main game), meanwhile, is a little disappointing. It’s still enjoyable, and it’s also slightly more challenging than previous levels – which is welcome. It is also, sad to say, liberally garnished with moments where the otherwise-invisible imperfections in the controls are thrust into the spotlight; moments where the precision demanded is better suited to ever-so-slightly-tighter controls (not helped by some frustrating checkpoint placement).

Apart from not having to pay extra for the DLC, there’s nothing new here apart from the benefits inherent in having a Switch version. The lovely graphics certainly shine brightest on a TV, where they’re at their sharpest. Despite the small character sprites though, it works perfectly well in handheld mode, which takes very little away from the great art and soundtrack.

If you want a retro-style platformer without (most of) the retro frustration, Shu is a great choice. It’s only a few hours long, but it’s a wonderful few hours… for the most part. Just don’t expect to feel compelled to come back to it again and again.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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