Released For: PC (Windows) , PS4 , PS Vita (Q4 2016)
Reviewing: PC (Windows)
DRM Versions Available
Released On: Oct 4th, 2016
MSRP: $11.99 Steam Link
Copy provided by developer or publisher
Welcome to the world of the bird people! You play as Shu, and after a terrible storm destroys Shu’s Village, it’s up to Shu to platform his way to victory, rescue the stranded villagers, and stop the devastating storm from reaping havoc but the question remains, is Shu worth your time? The real question is, do bird people even wear shoes? The real question is, could I have come up with a better joke at 4:00 AM? Probably not.
In Shu, you play as a cute bird [owl?] person named Shu, coincidentally when your village is suddenly attacked by a terrible storm. It’s up to Shu to platform around in a nice little 2.5D platformer while dodging obstacles, saving villagers, and using unique powers granted by said villagers to help save your people and stop the terrible storm once and for all. The basic gameplay is the platforming, and in the world of Shu and the strange bird people who look more and more convincingly like Owl Boy, it’s not bad. Its platforming is similar to Dust: An Elysian Tail, but with a smaller character, and with puzzles and quick(ish) reflexes from games like On Rusty Trails in the sense that along the way, you’ll gather villagers who grant you unique abilities, similar to how the suit in On Rusty Trails granted to the ability to stand on different platforms and be injured by different things. Some of these abilities include standing on water and hovering in certain areas.
The game is split up into a series of worlds. With each world, you will be introduced to an intro level/intro level with villagers, and a running to the right level and avoiding big huge scary cloud with the face of Alec Baldwin level/section with the game mixing it up from time to time. The worlds are broken up mostly by theme, with a nice cohesion between levels, from abandoned ruins to a beautiful village by a beach, with a total of 15 levels to explore. The two new villagers you find in each world will grant Shu to use unique abilities that allows you to platform through the levels in different ways, often combining the skills of each character towards the latter levels of the worlds in order to increase difficulty. I say that the villages grant you unique abilities because Shu: owl boy meets the bird person from Rick and Morty doesn’t actually gain these abilities, and the game takes advantage of that by having certain sections of the world only being platformed by Shu, rather than Shu and the two stranded villagers he finds. It could be seen as another gameplay gimmick, but it’s not actually that bad. The levels make sure to gradually increase platforming difficulty so you never feel too overwhelmed by the challenge, and that difficulty ramp is nice and smooth up until the last level, which asks you to take everything you’ve learned and put it to the test. Finally, there’s the scary storm with Alec Baldwin face sections, which take everything you’ve learned about that particular world, it’s puzzles, it’s traps, and it’s villager powers that it introduces and throws it all at you as you’re being chased by a bluish-purple storm that reminds me slightly of the color of Ivan Ooze from Power Rangers. They’re a nice touch that really helps to speed up certain sections of the game and test the player’s skill.
The beginning level of each world gradually steps you into that world’s puzzles and makes sure to step you up higher and higher as the level progresses, making it’s platforming feel nice and simple. Each level has a series of checkpoints that automatically refills your lives counter to five, and they’re fairly plentiful in most of the worlds. If you die, you have to restart that particular level. Since the levels don’t go over 10 minutes, it’s not absolutely terrible if you die, but it can get annoying.
The platforming overall is simple and easy to grasp. A few gripes about the game is the hitbox is either too forgiving or not forgiving enough. One particular section in the last level, for example, I died to at least several times because the platform’s hitbox extended beyond the actual platform, leading me to die a lot because I kept hitting the empty void near the platform, but the game insisted I was hitting the platform. There are only a few moments like this, but it really makes the player question how many of the deaths were really his or her fault, especially in some segments where you die because you had to wait for a platform to do something to jump on it, and while you were waiting for Ivan Ooze Alec Baldwin Scary Cloud Man murdered you and you couldn’t do anything because you didn’t get to the transforming platform at the perfect moment because that’s the time the checkpoint respawned you at.
But yeah, it’s decent platforming minus those few gripes.
You also have some collectibles to pick up and whatnot. You have butterflies [why? Who knows…] and you have baby bird-owl things. You don’t get anything for collecting either except some achievements and what not and the feeling of accomplishment if you really just don’t like butterflies. You do get a medal at the end for collecting X number of butterflies, and the game’s fairly lenient on not needing to collect all 400+ butterflies to get the gold medal, which is actually kinda cool honestly. I don’t know many other games that would reward me for just getting close enough to something, so that’s cool.
You also have a time trial mode that allows you to time yourself in levels (once you’ve beaten them once) against other players. A nice touch for players who like that sort of thing and while not my cup of tea, I can certainly see the appeal.
Visually, the game’s quite pretty to look at. The 2.5D style makes the character and backdrops stand out from the 3D levels, and is really just a very beautiful game to look at. The animations are also quite nice, if a bit low-frame and the levels visually hold a nice appeal to them with the character designs being pretty to look at. I wish the game was zoomed-in slightly more to see more detail on the characters, but the game looks great other than that, using lighting techniques to make the game look better, and to possibly hide away from the low-res textures.
Audio-wise, the music’s great. I can’t really think of any track that played too often or felt too long or too dull. It’s not the kind of music you headbang to, but it fits the game quite nicely.
As for the controls, they’re great with a controller, and that’s the only way I tested the game because that’s how I play platformers. If you do want and insist upon playing a 2D platformer with a keyboard because you’re a madman, you have the option of rebindable keys, which is actually sorta rare for 2D platformers, so props to the developers for that. It doesn’t make me like keyboard for 2D platformers, but your opinion may vary. It’s also interesting that they offer a configuration for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, and custom controller configuration options. You can’t customize the default profiles, but you have a total of two custom profiles for either keyboard or controller that you can configure and switch around. Really cool honestly. As for settings, they’re not bare bones as some other platformers we’ve played, but it’s not Dust: An Elysian Tail level of customization. That being said, you do have a decent amount of customization options, including AA and AF if that’s your thing.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the game for the 2 – 4 hours I played it. It’s a simple, easy to grasp platformer that gets most things right. It doesn’t break the mold for 2D platformers, but it will certainly scratch an itch if you’ve been hankering to play one recently.
- Simple, easy to grasp gameplay
- Great controls
- Fantastic music
- Great visuals and visual design
- The game’s short and sweet, and feels a bit lackluster at the end
- Slight problems with certain hitboxes on a few platforms
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