Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: Shu, developed Coatsink Games and published by Secret Lunch.
After all the platformers that have ever been done, it takes something special to stand out in the genre, at least the way I see it. There’ve been some fantastic entries over the years, and the bar is set high. Shu doesn’t clear the bar.
The story here is a simple one, told visually without text or voiceover. There’s a small bird village that’s being overrun (possibly eaten?) by a giant evil cloud. The residents flee, and become scattered over different worlds, and it’s up to the main character (who I assume is named Shu) to collect them.
Shu can only jump and glide with his little wings, but the hook is that as he finds villagers, he holds their hands to make a daisy chain, and each one adds a new power as long as they’re with him. (Or is Shu a her?) The first person he finds is a husky guy who can help him do a ground pound, another one grants a wall jump, another one lets Shu walk on water, and so on.
Each level is 2D platforming, and there are little spiky things to be dodged, wind gusts that will whip Shu and company around, and more. It’s pretty standard stuff, and the physics have a bit of a slippery, slightly weightless feeling that requires a bit too much twitch. It can be touchy when the platforming gets tight.
Some levels end with the cloudy darkness showing up and forcing the player to race for their life to the end… These are generally unpleasant, and players can expect to die a fair amount. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be a big deal because checkpoints are generous, but in an unwelcome bit of throwback design, Shu gives players a limited number of lives, and running out only to restart a level from the beginning takes some of the wind out of its sails.
In terms of presentation, the character designs are somewhat cute but a bit too simple, the backgrounds are fairly dull, and the animation is no great shakes. It looks… fine? There’s just no flair to it, and it won’t remain in anyone’s memory an hour after the PS4 is turned off.
There’s nothing particularly bad about Shu, but there’s nothing particularly great about it either. It does what it sets out to do, but there are just so many incredible platformers available today. In such company, this little project can’t compete.