There’s something special about Shu.
Though delightful, it’s not the graphics, the sculptured bones of its story, or even the titular character him/herself. It’s not the mechanics or the gameplay, despite a calm, intuitive system. The score is beautifully hypnotic, too, but no, it’s not that, either.
While all of those things are pretty much fine and dandy as disparate entities in their own right, it’s the sum of these parts that gives Shu its uniquely whimsical magic.
Shu is a 2.5D platformer that instantly delights with pick-up-and-play sensibilities and a frequent refresh of perks and abilities, ensuring your playthrough never feels stale. Each level, stuffed with colour and creativity, heralds something new, with the complementary sound effects sewn expertly through the delightfully zen-esque score.
Unsurprisingly, Shu is about a Shu – a strong-but-silent type hellbent on rescuing his buddies and avoiding a sentient but catastrophic storm determined to devour the world. The story takes you through five distinct and captivating levels, each carved up into individual stages, and – along with a fabulously colourful supporting cast, all bringing their own unique abilities to each stage – your job is to keep on legging, leaping and lurching to the right, trying to outrun a god-like antagonist intent on devouring the world – and you with it, naturally.
Each level, stuffed with colour and creativity, heralds something new.
The palette is vivid and vibrant, and each beautifully crafted set-piece is a wonder to explore (when you’re not escaping the clutches of aforementioned entity, obvs). Besides spiky plants and an occasionally ill-timed jumps, there’s little to distract or destroy you, but as you progress – learning to ultilise the abilities of Shu and his buddies as you do so – you’ll need to respond carefully and flexibly – and quickly, in some instances – to the environment around you, climaxing in a challenging finale.
The first time you encounter Shu’s main antagonist – the sightless, gaping jaws of a storm determined to chew you up – is terrifying. The screen falls dark and RUN! – in huge, unmissable text – flashes across the screen. Before you know it you’re off, desperately scrambling over rocks and floating across the currents to escape.
The timed/chase sequences were surprisingly unsettling, and more than once I was forced to re-start the level.
At first, this is fine. Shu’s respawn mechanic – a Little Big Planet-esque spawn doorway plotted plentiful times across the world – gives you five attempts each time you pass the checkpoint, and though you may occasionally succumb to the environmental pitfalls on virgin voyages, you’re usually able to conquer the issue on your second or third try.
Though not difficult per se, when the game progresses – and particularly during the storm chase scenes – it does get trickier. Maybe it’s just me and my natural inability to make peace with platformers, but the timed/chase sequences were surprisingly unsettling, and more than once I was forced to re-start the level over, having exhausted my five-life limit.
This is a great title for veterans platformers keen on challenges, and in many ways, it’s ideal for beginners, too. However, the Little Big Planet-esque respawn limitations put a real downer on the game for any young uns (or old ‘uns new to gaming), or those wanting to explore the environs without the added stresses of a five-life limit. Though levels aren’t typically very long, it’s nevertheless frustrating to have to restart several times over if you keep getting stuck on a particular section. Though the respawn limit helps tighten the challenge, it would’ve been nice to have seen a limitless option for those keen to keep playing but perhaps lacking the necessary experience to progress.
For those seeking a greater challenge, there’s added re-play incentives by way of luminescent butterfly collecting, six “babbies” secreted throughout each stage, and a speed-run goal for each level, too. As each level is short and sweet, the pull to do just that is strong, particularly as the game’s run time is disappointingly truncated.
If you’ve missed Shu to date, you’ve genuinely missed out.
This game was reviewed using a retail copy of the game provided by the developer.
Platform: PC / PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Developer/Publisher: Secret Lunch / Coatsink
Price: £12 approx.
Release date: Out Now
- Beautiful art style
- Fabulous soundtrack
- Fresh, enjoyable mechanics
- Disappointingly short
- Chase sequences may be too tough for some
Offering fresh, fantastic mechanics and a glorious art style and score, Shu takes a tried and tested platform with a whimsical twist that won’t disappoint.