By Bradley McManus
The multi-character based platformer came out a couple of weeks ago on PC & PS4. I've been taunted by this beast ever since playing it at Rezzed earlier in 2016. I quite literally have the T-Shirt - but is the game good enough beyond a one level time-trial?
I've got a bit of a personal relationship with Shu which I feel my have coated my review a bit. Having come across the game about 7 months ago for the first time, I was set on completing the time trial so much I nearly left my duties as a journalist. The game's arrival at EGX 2016 meant I could hopefully redeem myself a little bit.
I managed to beat the 1:45 requirement at the first time of asking and so I was finally rewarded with my smiling storm Shu tee.
On the surface Shu follows all the staples of a good platformer. Fluid movements, great art style, responsive controls, lots of collectibles, different paths and even multiple characters. It does however add a few little quirks which on first play aren't that clear. There are not any enemies for example, at least not in the traditional sense, but I'll come to that in a bit.
As the game starts you are playing as a solo character who can jump and glide but not much else. Quickly you discover other friendly sprites who tag along in a chain and allow their ability to be added to the pile. For example, the very first power you pick up allows you to slam through brittle bits of the scenery which allows another level of exploration to be added, then the next power allows blue flowers to open and close. The combination of all of these gives the game a lot of flow and that's a word that I'll keep coming back to throughout this review.
There isn't much pressure to complete the level as there are a lot of checkpoints, though one of the games most unique parts suddenly changes the entire game and welcomes in the purple storm and suddenly the game requires you to run as fast as you can and there is legitimate pressure. I enjoyed these parts of the levels the most because the took a fairly casual game and made it much harder. The game encourages you so much here that you will slip, you will fall and lose the flow you've been building up. For a game that has clear designed paths for you to follow, these deaths can be really jarring but I think it adds to the success you feel when you complete it.
The game's visual style is the thing that really sets it apart. That's what draws you in at expos and makes it very easy to recommend. In a world full of indie games, it is incredible to see such a quality art style coming onto a show floor and then your own PC at home. It's hard to make cartoon's unnerving or frightening but when that purple personified storm with human teeth arrives, it is very effective. Look at the image above because when you're playing the game I doubt you'll have time to pay as much attention!
Sound goes underrated here too. Less is more and the little trills you hear from collecting butterflies, landing, smashing and gliding is completed dominated by the thunder coming with the storm. A well played hand on the audio side I feel, allowing the art again to shine through.
You will die repeatedly and you will keep going. The pleasure and enjoyment from Shu comes from repeated playing and getting quicker. I'd actually compare to slightly to a rhythm game because there is a path that works and when you land the jumps and time the smashes, it feels so gratifying. My obsession with Shu came from that repeated play style and getting the run perfect. I am not a completionist, I used to be when I had far more time and yet I found myself playing the game late into the night and striving for more - no T-Shirts waiting this time though!
I do feel that the strength of the characters you get across the game does become weaker - I would've actually preferred to keep my core 3 characters and then perhaps add a 4th to make each level a bit different. Plus the wall jumping character in world 2 was a quite inconsistent.
It's not a long game, but retailing at £8.99 at the time of release I would encourage you to give this gem some of your time. If you need something to chill out with but still look for that competitive edge. A beautiful game which adds enough to make it stand out from the platforming genre.