I wasn’t sure what to expect when I booted up Shu, It’s a game that looks impressive but inevitably raises questions about whether it’s gameplay can possibly match the visuals. Luckily the longer I spent with this charming platformer, the more I was endeared by its complete package. Shu is a confident, beautiful if slightly inconsistent game that’s certainly got the potential to break-out. How so? Let’s dive in and find out.
Shu is a game about fleeing from the incoming storm. You achieve this by jumping, gliding and generally doing your absolute best not to die as levels become increasingly more complex. To help you here, the game throws you new power-ups along the way that grant you new abilities such as double jumping and wall jumping.
The first thing to say about Shu is just how gorgeous it is. The world presented is hugely endearing and wildly vivid. It’s the hand-drawn cartoon style that really makes the game pop; as environments and characters burst off the screen with vivid detail. The contrast between the calm of the normal levels contrasts beautifully with the dark, sinister approach of Storm when it appears. I loved how the game made these chases feel just as exciting through its visuals and how the music just combines effortlessly with proceedings. Make no mistake, Shu is a game that leaves an impression long after you’ve finished it.
In terms of gameplay, if you’ve played any of the recent Rayman games then you’ll be aware of just what’s on offer here. Shu offers you the kind of flowing platformer that encourages experimentation. Death throws you back to checkpoints, which grant you five lives to reach the next checkpoint. Failure pushes you back to the beginning of the level where you’ll be required to work through the game again. It’s a similar system to games like LittleBigPlanet and I feel that this game balances it well. Yes there are some awkward moments where difficulty spikes but for the most part – the game handles itself fairly well.
It’s the flow of the gameplay that really makes Shu a standout candidate. It’s the ease of being able to flip between gliding, jumping and other abilities which makes the game feel fun. Levels are layered with multiple routes, hidden caverns and routes that aren’t obvious unless you go looking for them. It’s this which adds to the sense of scope and means the game has a huge amount to offer completionists and those curious.
For all these positives though, the game does have some issues. Primary among these I ran into came from the game being awkwardly obtuse about some pointers. At the best of times, new abilities and companions are meekly thrown at you and sometimes this leads to an awkward slowdown as you try to figure out what to do next. It would have been helpful if the game came out to tell you; instead you’ll be mashing buttons as icons appear then disappear with awkward abandon. It breaks the flow of the game up and makes you wonder why the game doesn’t tell you what to do the first time. Symbols are nice but ultimately meaningless if I have no context.
I’d also suggest that if you’re here for an epicly-long endeavor you may come away disappointed. Each of the worlds are beautiful but only come in fairly short bursts of excitement. The relative shortness of these isn’t so bad for a game priced at $15 but those who might have been hoping for something matching Rayman in length may be disappointed. Instead the game focuses on replayability; offering up a heap of collectibles and items for you to hunt down and get. Finding all these can be quite the feat; I missed a fair few on my first play through.
In the end though, Shu is a very easy recommendation for the price. It’s beautiful, easy to learn but hard to master. I wouldn’t call it revolutionary on any level – the gameplay sits slightly too close to other games in this genre. But it’s a nice addition to the pack and if you find yourself hankering for more Rayman style games; this very gladly will soothe that itch.
Shu is a beautiful, refined and very assured platforming game and well worth your time.
A review code was provided by the publisher.