Entering this game was a strange affair, mainly because i had literally no idea what to expect. Typically I would have done hours of research on a game before i find it in my hands/beaming into my eyes. And yet I found myself allocated the task of reviewing ‘Shu’ for the Nerdhub community, which was an interesting experience as I don’t often find myself playing games that I haven’t hand-picked for myself, or heard of for that matter…
That being said, I have no qualms with saying that Shu is not the sort of game I would typically choose to play, mainly because I’m awful at platformers. However I found myself quite drawn in by the game’s charming artstyle of bright colours and hand-animated characters, and it was accessible enough to not leave me too frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, there were some moments where i would find myself swearing out loud and banging my desk, but to be fair it was usually my own fault.
The game puts you in the shoes of an odd-looking bird-like character, whose village is attacked by a dark entity. From there you embark on an adventure to find and rescue a cast of colourful characters, and track down recently hatched cutesy bird-types, all while collecting coins.
The gameplay consists of the type of run-and-jump platforming you’d expect from from a game of this type, but mixes things up with some pretty interesting mechanics.
Those colourful characters ypu meet along the way? Yeah, they arent just a passive addition; each time you come across one, they take your hand and grant you more options with traversal and exploration.
Some allow you to run on water, others give you a double-jump, one even seemed to influence the plant-life, allowing you to make flowers bloom at will to fashion make-shift platforms. And what’s more is you typically find two of these guys on a level, and they stack their abilities while you have them with you. Then, once you feel like you’ve mastered them, the chase is on…
The game has numerous moments where that dark entity which destroyed your village appears and chases you, usually to either a checkpoint or the end of the level. What these intense chase sequences mean for you and your newly found pals is that you have to learn to get all your new traversal abilities working in perfect harmony. If you make an error, chances are youre getting chomped by this crazy looking thing…
These moments are pretty tense, and help to not just break up the flow of the coin-collecting and platforming by injecting an adrenalin-fuelled sense of urgency to proceedings, but also serve as a test of how well you’ve adapted to utilizing your buddies’ skills.
One of my favourite levels in Shu, saw my character stranded in a thunderstorm. I like how with the game’s simple, endearing aesthetic they were still able to create a dark, foreboding atmosphere as that sense of urgency seen in the chase sequences was applied differently, as you try to journey to and from the safety of the light zones (houses with lamps or torches around them) before the mist builds up and the lightning strikes, resulting in one dead little birdman. Its just another instance of a game that is relatively simple in premise amd scope throwing interesting ideas into the mixes to create a variation to the pace of the gameplay.
I said earlier that this is not typically the type of game i would usually play by choice, yet I can still safely say that I enjoyed my time with Shu. I appreciated the way it utilised simple but regular gameplay changes to keep the game flowing and stop you getting too comfortable, i liked that it was accessible but still presented enough of a challenge to keep me on my toes, i enjoyed the charming artstyle and colour palette, and the fact that beyond the picture-book-style cinematics there was no dialogue or exposition, but like another of this years indie efforts; Hyper Light Drifter, you are able to just understand what’s going because of how it’s all presented to you.
An enjoyable title thats inoffensive and fun, if you’re at a loss for something to play one weekend as the cold, winter nights draw in, I would recommend trying this Shu on for size.
Reviewed on Playstation 4, code supplied by the developers Coatsink Software.