2D platformers have seen something of a welcome return in recent years; there’s simply something in them which can appeal to almost any gamer and the recently-released Shu is no different. Featuring a unique and elegant art style, tried-and-tested gameplay elements, and a couple of twists on the usual format, game studio Coatsink’s latest release is absolutely worth your time.
Much like its fellow platformers, Shu doesn’t have a particularly deep story, not that it’s a bad thing. The game starts out with the titular character taking a stroll through the village when an elder points out a sinister storm-like threat aptly known as “The Storm,” which promptly trashes the town and forces Shu to flee. The player takes on Shu from here, travelling through various locations in an attempt to get away from the Storm and rescue others who are threatened by the impending doom. It’s a minimalist story, but it’s just enough to set the scene without over-complicating things; and Shu doesn’t need to be complicated.
The key element of any platformer is the gameplay. Whilst Shu doesn’t introduce an awful lot of newness on that front (something very difficult to do in a genre with such history), it’s difficult to find fault here. Throughout each region in the game, you’ll meet numerous characters who will travel with you temporarily and offer new abilities to your party such as wall-jumping and ground-pounding to open new routes. Your time with each set of characters (and abilities) is relatively short-lived however, as the elder comes to rescue them at the end of a region. Whilst this allows for a constantly-changing, fresh experience, the loss of abilities at the start of a new region is very jarring, although only very briefly as new friends are encountered quickly.
Whilst devoid of any enemies, each level is littered with collectibles, between the many butterflies that help direct your route, the six “Babbies” dotted around each level and the well-hidden stone tablets, there’s plenty to find and come back for multiple times. Adding to the replayability is a speedrun time set for each level, and a leaderboard if you have the skills to fly through each level without a hitch.
…wait, no enemies? Yup, and it’s exactly why the Storm is so terrifying. 75% of your time will be spent at peace, admiring the beautifully detailed 3D-look environments, the contrasting hand-drawn 2D characters, hunting for butterflies then suddenly CRACK – lightning flashes and the message “RUN!” flashes across your screen. Suddenly, your adrenaline shoots off the scale, your heart decides it’s appropriate to beat six times faster, and it’s a completely different game. It’s certainly the hardest part of the game, being chased by a relentless storm without a moment to slip up or miss a jump, but for me it’s easily the best. It’s such a wonderful jolt of panic, and the surprise change in pace just feels so…right.
In short, Shu is everything that you love about platformers, wrapped up nicely with incredible visual design and a vicious Storm that wants nothing more than to turn it up to 11 just before things start to feel a little too slow. It’s a beautiful game and certainly worth picking up. Be sure to check it out and let us know what you think!
Shu is available now on Steam or PS Store now for around $10 USD depending on region/platform.