Shu begins like a 2D platformer plucked from the NES era: a malevolent entity unceremoniously appears and lays waste to your hometown. As the last vestige of hope, the village elder tasks you with defeating the ancient evil before it brings about the end of the world. The set-up is as conventional as it gets, but what Shu lacks in narrative it more than makes up for with gameplay.
Much like the classic platformers Shu draws its inspiration from, controls consist of jumping, gliding …and little else. Fortunately, the game’s sensible – albeit linear – level design affords plenty of opportunities to take your basic abilities to stunning new heights. As you make your way from platform to platform, gathering bright, shining butterflies along the way, you will come across currents of wind that will carry your adorable self across massive chasms, and propel you closer towards the end of each level. But as refreshing and nostalgic as the proceedings appear to be at first glance, Shu works in handful of gameplay mechanics to help keep repetitiveness to a minimum.
As you rush towards the one weapon capable of ridding the world of the merciless menace that haunts you, you will come across a number of displaced townsfolk who will join and aid you for a brief period of time. The rotund Joro allows you to add height to your bounce off of trampoline-like flora and ground-pound through reinforced platforms, providing access to a once-restricted areas. Okoro lets you miraculously walk across water. The slender-framed Lati opens and closes budding flowers, in turn creating additional platforms for you jump onto. You and your pals will only have your traversal to worry about as the vibrant world is completely devoid of enemies. Occasionally the aforementioned evil – monstrous a purple cloud with a gaping maw known as the Storm – will chase you as you frantically jump and glide your way through Shu’s 15 levels, adding a sense of urgency to the game’s otherwise playful presentation.
‘Difficult’ and ‘lengthy’ are not words one would use to describe Shu. With a generous checkpoint system and the only challenge stemming from the chase sequences, the delightful platformer can be completed by even the most novice of gamers in a matter of hours. Death never feels cheap and is almost always a result of your own missteps and bad timing. If you are looking for something to brag about, however, completionists and competitive gamers may look to each level’s collectibles and hidden items as well as its leaderboards. If you are so inclined, you may put your speed-run skills to the test and try to best other players from around the world to complete a level as quickly as possible.
Shu’s artistic styling has an undeniable Rayman-like quality about it. It comes as no surprise as the series was a huge inspiration for developer Coatsink. From the characters to the environments, it all pops with the color and vibrancy of a cartoon. Its soundtrack is as equally top-notch and melodic and hypnotic tunes add a layer of wonderment and charm to the overall design.
Shu is an unassuming 2D platformer with a lot of heart. It does away with pointless bells and whistles and provides a pure, uncompromising platforming experience that is simply fun to play. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or break new grounds in the of Super Meat Boy or Ori and the Blind Forest. But remains and is thoroughly enjoyable title that is worth its $11.99 price of admission.
PS4 Review Code for Shu provided to Proven Gamer publisher/developer Coatsink.
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