Back when I was a relatively young gamer, 2D sidescrolling platformers were my favourite type of games. From SEGA classics like Sonic The Hedgehog to the many Disney titles like The Lion King and its nightmarish giraffe heads, not to mention everybody's favourite Italian plumber brothers, I was never short of choice. Then the genre fell out of favour and I had to satisfy myself with 3D offerings like Ratchet & Clank or Crash Bandicoot. However, in recent years the 2D platforming genre has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. From AAA titles like Rayman Legends to smaller indie titles like Sound Shapes, there are plenty of titles to fulfil the needs of the nostalgic gamer. One of the latest 2D platformers to hit the Playstation 4, Shu, is hoping to make its own mark as a worthy title in the genre, but will it succeed?
The game's first impressions leave a positive taste. The titular character Shu is going about her daily business in the village when an impending storm threatens to destroy everything in its path. The only way that the village can be saved is to outrun the storm and reach the tower that is at the top of the ancient mountain, all while saving the village's many unique inhabitants. The story never becomes any more detailed than this but then it doesn't need to do so, because your focus will always be on the gameplay itself and the game's beautiful world with its cute hand-drawn characters. There is no Limbo-like noire aesthetic, or Thomas Was Alone-like minimalism; Shu is unabashedly colourful and lends itself to flamboyant detail in places, bringing back happy memories of childhood favourites.
The objective of every one of the game's 15 levels is to make it from left to right. Shu can run and jump like any platforming protagonist, although she also has the ability to glide while using her smock like a wingsuit. While gliding, she can use air currents to get her to otherwise inaccessible places, such as the top of tall buildings. While Shu's own abilities never change, this doesn't mean that she is limited to these basic actions. As she travels through the levels, she encounters other characters from the village who each carry their own ability, such as double jump or the ability to walk on water. Shu can use these abilities for as long as it takes for those characters to reach safety, at which point they leave her and she returns to the use of her own abilities. While this sounds like it is restricting the player, it actually feels like none of the abilities are overused and you never get to the point where you rely too much on a certain gimmick.
That cart doesn't weigh you down in mid-air but does add to his ability to crush things
There is no time limit and players can take their time to explore the levels as much as they want. With a lack of enemies to fight, the only threats to your life are pools of water (Shu can't swim), large drops and other similar environmental hazards. There's even a forgiving checkpoint system where each one restocks Shu's five-life quota. With a generous number of attempts allowed for players to reach the next checkpoint and the only real obstacle being the player's own mistakes due to the game's responsive control system, it is more difficult to fail a level than it is to beat it -- but this seems to be the entire point. Cutesy platformers and overly frustrating difficulties rarely mesh well so it's refreshing to find that Shu would rather be accessible to all ages and abilities.
The only times when the game does become more challenging is when the storm rears its ugly head (I mean, seriously; have you ever seen a storm with a full set of teeth?) With a sharp increase in the soundtrack's tempo and a stark warning to gamers as "RUN!" flashes across the screen, players must outrun the storm and quicker reactions are needed to avoid the obstacles in front of you. If you're to avoid being eaten, your reactions need to be almost perfect. Just the slightest of errors can result in the storm gaining too much ground and a checkpoint restart. Even still, the majority of the players will be able to make it through the levels with ease, the exception being the final level where players again get access to the villagers' abilities at certain points and your reactions are tested to their limit. For the record, the final level was the only level on which I ever saw the Game Over screen.
Run faster; it's gaining and that isn't a yawn!
The game's campaign is relatively short at just 2-3 hours, but there are other things to keep players coming back for more. There are golden butterflies that are scattered around each level, although most of them are located along the ideal path for players to take to complete the level. Each level also includes six baby birds, known in-game as the colloquial "babbies", that players can find off the beaten track. Neither the butterflies or the babbies add anything extra to the game once found. Then there are the mural pieces that are hidden in the most obscure parts of the level and will take more detailed searching. Unlike the babbies, these serve a purpose to tell more of the game's story as players progress. Finally, there are medals on each level for completing it without dying, something that is much easier said than done. Completionists will need to collect most or all of these to get all of the game's trophies, something that can stretch the game's play time to a much longer 8-10 hours depending on ability.
Of course, the hardcore platformers are not ignored either. As well as all of the extras that were detailed above, each level has a Goo Shu time that challenges players to beat it. To do this, not only must you have a perfect run but you must also make use of shortcuts. Those who wish to come top of the leaderboards will spend many hours trying to find another corner to cut, or a smoother way to link platforms together. Even getting near-perfect no-death runs will not guarantee that you break those times, so this is something that only the most persistent and experienced gamers will be able to beat.
If you want to stand any chance of beating Goo Shu's time, you can't linger for long
While I've briefly mentioned them before, the trophies will possibly be an important part of your decision to purchase this game. There are the usual trophies that are awarded for simply completing different stages of the campaign, as well as those that are linked to the abilities of certain villagers, most of which will be earned through normal play. To get 100% on each of the levels, players must find all of the babbies and mural pieces, as well as enough of the butterflies to earn a gold rating. Finally, they must complete all of the levels without dying. Thanks to level select, players can revisit any of these levels at any time to collect achievements that they may have missed, so nothing seems too challenging or missable. Fortunately (for most people, anyway), you are only required to beat a single Goo Shu time -- that of the final level -- making this a much easier platinum than it may first have seemed.
SummaryShu is a 2D platformer that manages to make its own mark on the genre without having to resort to gimmicks. Accessible by gamers of all ages and abilities, it's a simple romp up an island whose existence is threatened by a rather flamboyant natural disaster. The gameplay never becomes too complicated but the only downside is that the campaign can feel a bit short. Unless you're going for speed-runs, collectibles or trophies, you'll be done with the game in 2-3 hours. If you want a completion, you'll be looking at a much longer playtime.
- Simple gameplay
- Appeals to all ages
- Beautiful art style
The reviewer spent approximately 10 hours collecting butterflies, reconstructing murals and rescuing helpless baby birds from the clutches of the storm. She earned 33 of the game's 37 trophies but is still to complete the final level without dying. She has, however, come up with some rather interesting new insults about the storm. A Playstation 4 copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
Get the biggest PlayStation news delivered straight to your inbox every week.