This is a transcript excerpt covering the score awarded to Shadow Gambit: the Cursed Crew on the So Videogames podcast, episode 350: S.S. Minnow.
All right, So Shadow Gambit, The Cursed crew. I’ve been waiting for this one for quite a while. It comes from Mimimi games, which I believe is a German company, if I’m not mistaken. I think it’s German. They put out also shadow tactics, which I loved, and Desperados three, which I loved. So it makes a lot of sense that I was waiting for this one eagerly. All three of these games Shadow Gambit, Shadow Tactics and Desperados three are basically in the same category. They are isometric. I guess real time tactics, I guess, is probably the best label. Basically, I’ll just talk about Shadow Gambit for now, but, but understand that the other games are basically effectively the same. You start off with a group with a pirate, a pirate. Her name is Afia and she is undead. This has a very like Pirate of the Caribbean vibes to it where you’ve got like pirates but supernatural oil and you’re in like, you know, these tropical seas and you’re going after treasure and stuff like that.
[00:44:35] Just think like Pirates of the Caribbean. But overhead isometric and with some tactics thrown into it. So basically you take a fire, you get to ship called the Red Mali. And the red Marley has a special ability. The ship is alive just like you are an undead live person. A spirit is in that ship as well, and its power is the power of saving. Now, I got to back up a little bit and explain this. So mimimi they kind of make the same game over and over and over and that that is not a negative at all. That’s a positive because I feel like they’re basically one of the only developers out there who make these kind of games, these kind of like overhead isometric real time tactics, semi real time tactics. But they are the masters of it. Mimimi is a developer at the height of their powers. They’ve got a very clear vision. They know exactly what they want to execute on and they did an incredible job. So stuff that they started in shadow tactics where that was a ninja based game, but basically the same formula team of ninjas doing turn based tactical stuff. They went to Desperados three, which was Western cowboys doing turn based tactical stuff. Loved both of those games. They’re amazing. And now we’re doing pirates. So while some people might be thinking that seems like you’re just doing the same game over and over.
[00:45:51] And in a certain sense, they are. They’re iterating every single time and they’re getting better and better and they are improving. And Shadow Gambit is clearly the best game they’ve ever done. And they were already making amazing games. So in this particular style of game, once you get your extra characters and once you get out of the tutorials and stuff, you’re going to have usually a team of three or maybe five sometimes of people, and each person has a special ability. So for example, Afia has a sword that lets her warp so she can like do like these really quick strikes. And then you get like the ninja chef Toya, he can teleport, which really is helpful. You get like the ship’s doctor who can create cover. She has these magical seeds and she can throw a seed and little bush sprouts out and then you can take cover in that bush. So if you’re in a place where there’s no cover, you just create your own cover. There’s a guy that has a giant chest on his back like a treasure chest, and he has a fishing pole. And whenever he kills somebody, he can use that fishing pole to get rid of the body. Like he’ll hook the body with the fishing pole and stick it inside his treasure chest so that it stops anybody from finding the dead body.
[00:46:53] There’s no evidence left behind. Right. And so you mix and match. I think ultimately there’s like nine characters. No, that’s not right. Seven, seven, nine. Well, there’s a bunch. There’s a bunch. There’s a whole crew. Each one has their own thing that they like to do. And you assemble your team and then you go into a level and you’ve got to just figure out what your objectives are. Um, but the thing about these games is that saving and retrying is always like a key element of the game. And you know, a lot of people are like, Oh, I never save Xcom or whatever. And like number one, I don’t like the word save scum. It’s just like stupid because Like what? Like you’re tough if you don’t save. Like, you have to do everything perfectly the first time. If you mess up something, you’re going to like What? Or delete your save and go back to the very beginning of the game. That’s dumb. I just think that like people who like call it that, it just has a very negative connotation, which I do not appreciate. So I just prefer to say saving because, you know, I’m not an infinite vampire who lives in someone’s basement. I don’t have all eternity to play games. Like I’ve only got a limited time here on Earth and so I want to use that time effectively. And saving helps you play games effectively.
[00:47:57] So I think that’s a net positive. But basically in these games you have to save a lot. They really, really strongly encourage you to save try if it fails, retry like say like reload your save like that’s it’s just part of the game. There’s no way. Okay. Not no way. I’m sure someone’s done it, but like it would be very, very, very, very difficult to get through one of these levels without dying at least once, without making a mistake, because stealth is kind of a huge part of this. Like when you go into this game, let’s say Shadow Gambit, you got your pirates, you pull up on the beach, you got it like let’s say you want. You get a treasure chest that’s like hitting a castle or something. There’s going to be like 50 guards between you and the castle, and they’re on patrol routes. They’re looking one way, they’re looking the other. Some of them are talking to each other. Some of them are sleeping. Like you got to figure out the best way to get to that castle to get that gold. And along the way, you’re going to make mistakes because there’s always people who are covering each other. Like you may see a guard and you’re like, okay, cool. I’m going to use my teleporting pirate and I’m going to sneak up behind him and I’m going to backstab him. And then we’re going to keep moving.
[00:48:58] And you do that and then you’re like, Oh shit. I didn’t realize there was a guy in the balcony above. He saw me. The alarm is on and now guards are swarming at us from nowhere. You can power through that. You can kill all the guards and keep going, but you’re probably going take a lot of damage. It’s really difficult. You know, you might lose a couple people. It’s just like a hassle. And it’s just better to not get caught in the first place. So that is where they’re like, you need to save and restart. That has been true in shadow tactics. That was true in Desperados and it is definitely true here. So they know you’re going to you’re not going to spot everybody. You’re not going to pick the right route the first time. You’re not going to you’re not going to have the right approach the first time. Sometimes the timing is off. Sometimes the timing of what you want to do is very tight. For example, you know, maybe two guards are walking past each other on a patrol route and you need to wait for the exact moment when they’re both in the same spot. So then you can kill them both at the same time before either one can raise the alarm. You know, it might be a window of like one second or something like that, or sometimes even less than that. And so you want to save right before that because if you mess up your timing and one of those guys gets away, he sounds the alarm, then your whole thing is screwed and it’s just like a pain in the ass.
[00:50:03] And they know this, They know it’s difficult. They know getting the timing is difficult. They know that nailing all these things is hard. And so they they beat you over the head with. They’re like, please save, please save and try again. If you fuck this up, reload the save, try again like they’re telling you. They want you to play it that way. And that’s really the only like sane and sensible way to do that. So in the previous games you just saved like, you know, quick save, hit a hit the start button or whatever. It was just it was part of the menu system. Like it was just the thing you did as the player. But in Shadow Gambit, they’ve really taken a look at this system and they’ve taken a step back and they’ve really done something incredibly clever with it. They have incorporated that method of quick saving die, reload, repeat, which you do a lot in this game. They have made it part of the actual story. So you’re Marley, the ship, the spirit inside the ship. Her ability is saving. And so she’ll tell you, hey, we’re successful pirates. And we’ve been so successful because I can use my power to reload time if you guys die or fuck up.
[00:51:01] So that’s how come we are the most successful crew in the world. Because every time we die, I just reload a save, you know, quote unquote, reload A save. She calls it like unleashing a memory is what she calls it. So she’s like, if you die, I just unleash one of my memories and you get to try again. And that way, every heist we do is successful. We never lose a crew member. We never get caught. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. So the developers have taken the meta element of saving this game and incorporated it into the game itself. And it becomes part of the story, part of your crew is this whole thing which I think is fucking brilliant. It is so brilliant to see that they’ve used this system all these times to previous games and then incorporate it this way is just so smart. I think the story of this game is really cool. I’m not going to spoil anything, but basically her ability to save definitely comes into play later on in the game, so you have to contend with some of that. You also have to free your other crew members who have been captured in various places. You got to assemble the crew. Everybody’s got their own little side story, which is really cool. And the neatest thing is like when you are between missions, you go back to the Mali, your ship and you can just hang out with your crew, you can talk to them.
[00:52:06] It’s like your home base. You’re kind of just cruising in the Caribbean, I assume, and you’re just like talking to your people, Hey, what’s up? What’s your what’s your story this time? Hey, let’s chat a little bit and see a little bit more about you and find out little things. I think it’s just really cool. I love the crew. The crew is, I think, easily the best crew they’ve ever assembled. I mean, I love all the crews. I love the desperados crew, I love the Shadow Tactics crew. But I feel like they went above and beyond this time because each person is very clearly distinct. They have their own full backstory. They have their own little side quest. And spending time with each one is just great because they have little comments. They say during each mission, you can build up rapport with people, and it’s just really, really fun. I think they’re just the most well fleshed out, the most appealing. I had a lot of love for Quentin, the guy with the treasure chest on his back. He’s got a great voice actor. In fact, all the voice actors in this game are great. I think they’re all outstanding. Um, but just like the banter, the back and forth, the feeling of getting to know your crew and feeling like they’re friends, there were definitely certain people who I like spending time with more than others, and sometimes I would take somebody along even if I didn’t like their power so much just because I like them.
[00:53:12] And I thought it was cool. So I really appreciate the effort and time that goes into that. And the other thing that also changed about Shadow Gambit as compared to their previous games was they give you so much choice. Not only do you get to choose which characters you want to take with you on a mission, which wasn’t all. Was the case in the past. In the past, you would have your set level and they would say something like, Oh, for this mission you must use characters one, two and four. For reasons there would be like a story reason, like somebody was sick or somebody got shot or something. And so they had to take a break. And so it would kind of force you to use other characters to kind of use their powers in different ways, which I think is fine. And in fact, I like it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I enjoy it. It’s kind of like a developer is imposing a specific challenge, but in this particular game almost never do they force you to take somebody with you. You usually have the ability to choose from whoever you’ve got unlocked at the moment and you unlock them all, you know, I mean, you can get there.
[00:54:06] It’s like half the game is unlocking your crew. Once you get there and you’ve got your full crew, you just take whoever you like and whatever you know, if you like more direct combat, you’re probably going to want to take these couple people if you prefer to be sneaky or you’re probably gonna want to take these couple of people, you know, if you like possessing somebody and being inside the guard’s body, then you’re going to want to take this guy. Or if you want to take somebody and put them in a cannon and launch them out of your cannon, you’re going to want to take this girl. So they give you like these different abilities to choose, which I think is great. You can tailor your experience to whatever you want. I’m actually very curious to see now that the game is out which characters will be people’s favorite. I think the two starting characters, the ship’s doctor and the ship’s chef are both really strong characters. I feel like oftentimes I could almost even solo a mission just with either one of those two people. Excuse me? Those people, um, because they’re very competent, they’ve got a good range of skills and they’re just really quick, but everybody’s interesting. Almost everybody I thought, had a really cool use case. The only person that I didn’t really get along with was the Cannoneer, and I just didn’t find a lot of use for her particular ability of sticking somebody in a cannon and shooting them.
[00:55:11] But then again, I didn’t spend all that much time with her because I was busy like using my favorites, right? I mean, maybe if I had spent more time, I would find different strategies for her. So I’m not I’m not saying that she’s a bad character, just like in the time that I spent. And I did finish the game, by the way. I just she wasn’t one of my favorites. But I am kind of curious to go back and play with her a little bit more to see if I can find different ways to use her. The other major change and a huge improvement is that you have the ability to choose your approach for each level in this game. So let’s say you’re going to a particular island. You got to get to the castle, get the treasure. You can go to the north beach where it’s maybe shorter, but like denser packed with enemies. Or you can go to the South Beach where there’s fewer enemies, but it’s like a longer trek. So you might have more trouble along the way. Or maybe there’s like an east beach where it’s got like some other kind of obstacle where, you know, you might have to find a key before you can pass that one particular gate or something like that.
[00:55:59] So it’s up to you. Like depending on the crew you’re using, are you going to want to have more combat? Are you going to be sneakier? Do you want more, you know, interfacing with enemies? Do you want less? Like, what do you want? What are you after? And you can choose which way you want to go, which I really, really appreciate it as well. I love the ability to just choose and then go and leave it up to me. So it kind of seeing some echoes from black skylines where a lot of the choices in my hands. I feel like that’s true here as well where a lot of the choice in how I played, who was on my team, where I went to, that was really up to me as well. And it was up to me to develop the strategies that worked for me and that were the most fun for me to play. But there’s lots of options. There’s tons of options. So overall, I feel like, Oh, I haven’t even said the most important thing. Well, not the most important thing, But one of the other things is one of the other key things that Mimimi does is they have this ability where you get to certain situations where there’s just no way through for one person. So let’s say, for example, you get to a room, there’s like five guards and guard A is watching guard B.
[00:56:57] Guard B is watching Guard C. Guard C is watching guard D And it’s just really well covered. There’s just like no way through without the alarm going off. This is a hallmark of Mimimi games. So you get your, your team three, 4 or 5 guys, whatever, and then you can program each one to do a specific thing. It’s very easy to use. The interface is really smart, really well done, very simple. So like you pause time and you go, okay, Hey pirate A, I want you to take out guard A and you kind of program. You tell them what to do while the game is paused. Pirate B take out guard B, Pirate C take out guard C And then once we kill these guys, then we’re going to go and kill Pirate D or guard D, and then the whole thing is frozen in time. You just take your time. You think about it, you direct them where you want to go and tell them what moves you want them to use. Melee or, you know, your gun, your sword, whatever. Like whatever it is you’re like you figured out. And then of course, save capture a memory right before you do that. And then you launch it off and then everybody attacks at the same time. That’s how you get through. A lot of the challenges in this game is by having coordinated attacks between two or 3 or 4 people, which I think is great.
[00:57:59] I love that It really gives you some stiff challenges to kind of think your way through. There’s always multiple ways to get through each challenge, and if you don’t like a particular challenge, there’s always another path to go like you’re never locked into really like doing any one thing. If something is really frustrating, you can go a different way. You can go a long way. The short way. The hard way. The easy way. The combat way, the stealth way. Like there’s always a way to go. So it’s kind of up to you which chart you want to go, which which chart you want to course for yourself, what course you want to chart for yourself. You know what I’m saying? Too much. Let go for me right now, which course you want to chart for yourself and then you just kind of just go for it. So I really love that. I love that approach. I love the the ability to program the different moves at once and kind of do all those things. It’s really satisfying to like, you know, you’ll, you’ll program the moves and you’ll see kick off the button and then one guy comes up with a sword, stabs a guy, one guy gets shot, the other guy gets thrown off the edge or something, and then everybody’s safe. No one got no one raised the alarm. None of your people got hurt.
[00:58:54] And this difficult situation got surmounted with with your cleverness, you always feel like a strategy genius when you’re done with it. So I really appreciate that a lot. Overall, the gameplay of Shadow Gambit is amazing — really satisfying and rich, and it succeeds in a space where there aren’t many games out there that can pull off this type of formula properly. There’s a couple on PC that I don’t know about, but if you’re talking about console, very, very, very few games try to approach this level of complexity, this level of strategy. I can’t think of anything that really feels like this at all other than the other Mimimi games. They’ve kind of cornered the market on this, at least on console. And if anybody knows games like this on PC, please let me know because I would like to hear about them. All right. So I have been singing its praises for a few minutes now. Is there anything to complain about? Well, sure. I can complain about anything, just about. But all of these things Let me, before I. Before I get into these nitpicks, let me just say that like, none of the things I’m about to say really significantly detract from the game. I think this game is wonderful. Definitely going to be on my top ten list for this year for sure, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I would like to complete the game all the way. I did finish it, I rolled credits, but there is some stuff after the game that I have to I had to put on pause to get to some other games, but I will come back to it.
[01:00:14] Basically, I’ll just say that sometimes I think the graphics can be a little small and they even call it out in the game. There’s kind of like a little joke about it, but you know, you’re on you’re on this overhead isometric viewpoint already. So things are a little bit tiny. I’ve got a pretty large screen, so it’s not that big a deal. But the graphics can get small sometimes. There might be some small detail that might trip you up because you didn’t notice it. For example, one thing that killed me a lot was I would try to be like making a getaway, right? And there would be like a little like a plank on the ground or something that my character got hung up on and it was pretty small. I didn’t notice it right away. So like, instead of getting away quickly, I got hung up on this plank and then I got killed because the guards caught me or something like that. Some of the corners are a little bit sticky. Sometimes it’s not a huge problem, but when it does happen, it does kind of stick out. But the graphics can be a little bit small. I think also there’s a lot of fiddling with the camera.
[01:01:04] You have to have a lot of dexterity to play this game because you’re managing moving the camera, rotating the screen. You’ve got like multiple characters to click through. Each character has a power like an ability wheel and an equipment wheel. So you’re kind of like you’re kind of doing like finger gymnastics the whole time. And when things are going smoothly, it’s no problem. Like you kind of get in the zone and you’re just like, click, click, click, click, click. It’s all fine. But every once in a while something would go sideways and it’s usually like a little panic situation, right? Like maybe a guard that I wasn’t expecting popped up and I’m like, Oh shit, I got to do something real quick. And then it would just like momentary amnesia would hit me where all of a sudden my fingers would stop working. I would turn the camera the wrong way or like I would click over to the wrong character and I would select the wrong attack. And the whole thing would just go like completely tits up. So there is there are moments when it just, you know, like you just lose your focus and all of a sudden your hands stop working. You get alien hand syndrome and all of a sudden it just feels like way too complicated. But you got to just step back for a minute, take a breath, come back to it, and then get back on the zone.
[01:02:05] And then it’s good again. But there are there are lots of fiddly moments, a lot of camera fiddling to get a better viewpoint. Um, and also, I do think along those same lines, certain things I think could be designed for better visibility. The levels look really great. When you get a close up look at them. They look amazing like these pirate shanty towns and these abandoned shipwrecks and the castles. They all look great, but sometimes there’s something on top, like a like a decoration, like, for example, a rooftop. Or maybe there’s like a flag or maybe there’s like a tree or something like that where it looks cool, but it kind of hampers visibility a little bit. It’s not a huge problem, but sometimes I would like not see something because there was like a little patch of roof that was blocking it, or sometimes I would think I could hide under something, but then I couldn’t because it looked like it was a hiding spot. But it wasn’t. I think you could streamline the visibility a little bit, like it’s not a huge problem in any way, but there was just a few moments when that happened. And again, like when it happens, like it’s really frustrating, but that part could be streamlined a little bit. I think some levels are a little bit too tight as well. There was, I think, two specific rooms I can think of where they were just like so packed with guards.
[01:03:14] They were so everybody covering everybody. And there’s double cover and there’s a guy on the roof and there’s a guy over there and there’s a guy on patrol. And I’m like, Oh my God. Like, you know, I could have gone a different route. Like I just said, I could have chosen to do something completely different. But, you know, like I’m already halfway through the level and it’s just this one room. And if I can get through here, then it’s fine. And I don’t want to restart the level. I don’t want to change course because I’m, you know, sunk cost fallacy. I’m too far in right now. I’ve got to keep going. And there was a couple rooms where I’m like, okay, you guys could have chilled out just like a little bit like 1 or 2 fewer guards in here would have been fine. Still would have been challenging. I didn’t need to work that hard for this, but it was few and far between when I really felt like like it was too much. Most of the time it was either I wasn’t using powers effectively or maybe I had a team that wasn’t optimal. If you choose a team that is lacking in powers, they will you will get a warning. It’ll say something like, Hey, with this particular team, you don’t have anybody who can make a guard move that might make this game or this level a lot harder for you.
[01:04:13] Heads up and you can either choose to proceed or you can say, Oh, no, wait a minute, hold up. Let me choose somebody with different powers. So they do they do want you to be well versed and able to handle any situation. But again, you have to figure out how to use those powers. The timing of those powers in conjunction with which teammate. Et cetera. Et cetera. So there’s a lot to it. And rarely did I feel like the developers went a little bit too far. But there was like two to maybe three rooms in the. A whole campaign where I’m like, okay, you guys went a little bit too far with this one, but still got through them. Although I will say the final level and the final battle, the final level is very awesome. I’m not going to say what it is, but the exact final battle was driving me completely ape shit crazy. I, I thought it was glitched at first. I wasn’t sure it was even able to be finished. And I was almost going to ask the developers for help because I was like, Wait a minute, I don’t think this is even able to be completed. But then I figured it out and then I felt like, okay, that was dumb and way too hard and that should be fixed. But I got through it.
[01:05:11] So there’s a handful of places where I feel like even me, who is a vet of their series, who is experienced in these games, felt like it was pushing me a little bit too far. But that’s pretty minor. Pretty minor. The only other thing that I will say sucks. So this actually sucks. This actually does Full on suck is once you roll credits on the game, there’s one extra character that you can unlock. And I was really excited. I was hoping he was going to be able to be unlocked. Fingers crossed. And then you finish the game, you roll credits and was like, Oh, hey, you can unlock this, this guy. And I’m like, Oh, nice. I really want this brand new character. It seems like I’m very curious to explore his powers and see what he can do. But you have to have at least 85% completion to unlock that guy. I rolled credits and finished the game after, I don’t know, like 40 hours. I was at like 54% and I’m like, Oh, dude, like what? I don’t even know what is what’s happening here. So there’s a couple missions I can go back and finish, but I don’t think that’s going to get me to 85%. I suspect what they want you to do is to go back and do like little individual badges for each island. And I’m just I just don’t give a shit. It’s like, oh, walk across every bridge on this island or kill every single person on this island or get your objective without ever being seen or, you know, like, like whatever.
[01:06:31] It’s like little challenges like that kill three people with environmental hazards or something. And I just. I just don’t care. Like, I don’t need that much gameplay out of it. I feel like going through the levels once or twice is totally fine and being able to pick my own team and pick my approach is good enough for me. So I feel a little bit depressed and sad that I probably am never going to get to 85% and I’m probably never going to unlock that character because I feel like that is asking too much from me as a player. I feel like only the most dedicated, only the most extreme players are going to get there. And that makes me a little sad because I love this game so much and I feel like it’s this one that I really, really enjoyed. That felt like a little bit of a kick in the nuts at the end, and I wasn’t too happy about that. Me, me, me. If you’re listening, please adjust that. Just just give us the character or make it more reasonable because going after those badges should be, in my opinion, a completely optional thing. And it is optional because you can finish the game without doing it, but like dangling that character in front of me and having it feel so far away, that feels bad.
[01:07:31] I don’t like that at all. I wish I just had him and I would play through the levels some more and do some other stuff, so that sucks. So please fix that. Please unlock that guy. Don’t make it 85%. You’re asking too much. That’s that’s unreasonable. But again, that’s an optional thing. You don’t have to do it. It’s just like an end game thing, whatever. Take it or leave it. But overall, I feel like Shadow Gambit: the Cursed Crew is a masterpiece — it’s just so good. The story is great, the characters are great, I love the choice and new approach to design, I love the incorporation of the meta elements of the saving into the storyline, your ship the Red Marley… I love everything about this. It’s so fun to have these undead pirates running around with all their powers and in another game they might be really OP and really out of control. But here it’s just really fun. Like I feel like they want you to have fun and just use these powers and really fun and engaging out of out of hand ways. Just really interesting stuff. I love it. I love the crew. I love this thing. I love. I loved all of it. Once I started playing, I couldn’t put this game down and I poured 40 hours into it just like in the blink of an eye.
[01:08:36] So for me, this one is a huge win. I, as I said, I finished it, rolled credits, everything, did almost everything that I wanted to do. Not that that was enough, but for me, I definitely feel comfortable giving this an official SVG game score. And that score is nine out of ten. A solid nine out of ten. This one is amazing. Very well done. And if you’re even remotely interested in this kind of content, it’s just it’s a no brainer. It’s a must buy. It’s super, super good for games like this. This is how you do it. And this should set the set the bar basically for everybody who comes after. So good job. Me, me, me. And if you do make that guy available at less than 85%, I will just love you even more. Nine out of ten. Shadow Gambit: the cursed Crew. That is some good ass shit.
Rating: 9 out of 10
So Videogames Official Score: 9/10
Developer: Mimimi Productions
Publisher: Mimimi Productions
Code Source: Publisher
Platform Reviewed: PS5
ESRB Rating: T – Blood, Language, Violence
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are present.
Subtitles: All dialogue is subtitled but text cannot be resized or altered. No audio cues are needed for play. It is fully accessible.
Controls: Controls are remappable.