This review specifically covers Shu on the Nintendo Switch.
We’ve previously reviewed Shu when it released on PC in 2016 – You can check out our more detailed review of the game through this link.
Developer: Coatsink, Secret Lunch
Release Date: 23/01/2018
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC
Ever since the game’s initial reveal, I’ve had a soft spot for Shu that I can’t let go of. I’ve played it in conventions (multiple times), interviewed the developers behind it, and then finally got to play through the entirety of it back when it released in 2016. Hell, this isn’t even my first time reviewing it – it really is one of those games that’s had a constant presence for me over the last few years.
It isn’t a problem though, especially since Shu just so happens to be a bloody brilliant game. It’s an old-school style platformer that’s set in a beautiful 2.5D world that’s under the threat of a looming and dangerous storm (which has a cracking set of teeth on it). It’s up to you, the titular protagonist Shu, to find a way to vanquish this storm, all whilst saving some of your friends and the inhabitants of the world along the way.
Whilst most 2D platformers see you taking on a multitude of enemies as you adventure across a mixture of levels, Shu focuses more on having the player just make their way across tricky platforming sections whilst using the myriad of powers that Shu and his friends have at their disposal. This means there’s no combat, which to some might feel like a disappointment but actually works perfectly here – there’s an extended focus on getting through the charming world as quickly as possible as opposed to smashing foes down, which feels more fitting given the game’s whimsical tone and the threat of the incoming storm.
Of course, it only works because the level design is so good. You’ll be running, jumping, and gliding across a rich variety of stages that see you facing all sorts of perplexing platforming situations. Sometimes though, the ability to run and glide just isn’t enough. This is where Shu’s friends come into play…
You know how I said you’ll be rescuing Shu’s friends throughout the game? Well, once you’ve rescued them, you’re able to use their abilities across each game world. These abilities include the likes of double jumping, running across water, sprouting flowers to act as platforms, and even being able to completely stop time – there’s certainly some variety on offer. You won’t have access to all of these powers at all times after you’ve rescued the corresponding character though; instead, each level will give you access to the characters you’ve rescued in that world. Whilst this is slightly disappointing as it makes some platforming-puzzles a little more obvious to work your way through, it at least means that you’re going to keep learning new ways to approach each level of the game right up until the very end.
I’ve spoken about Shu as if it’s this charming and almost care-free platforming experience, but believe me, it isn’t afraid to ramp up the pressure on the player. It can be a really tough game at times, though never so tough that you’ll be launching your Nintendo Switch across the room – it certainly manages to balance everything out to be a challenging but fair experience. One of the most obvious moments this is demonstrated is when the storm gets introduced into a level, with the word ‘RUN’ flashing up to alert you that the vicious purple smog is about to smother the edge of your screen. I don’t think I need to explain what you need to do here though, especially since the word ‘RUN’ is pretty self-explanatory in itself.
These scenes on levels with the storm were some of my favourite parts of Shu. It’s not just because they’re tense and challenging affairs, but also because I loved the aesthetic of the storm itself. You’re not running away from a bunch of clouds and bad weather, but instead this villainous presence that has a biting mouth and does its best to frighten you in a world that is otherwise full to the brim with delightful sights. It flips the tone of the game, and whilst it doesn’t tread into territory that feels too dark, it certainly does a good job of inducing a brief sense of panic upon the player.
Everything about the game comes together nicely to make for an experience that’s a hell of a lot of fun. Admittedly, it won’t take you long to complete all of Shu’s levels, but with plenty of replayability on offer with collectibles to find and the challenging time-trials, it’s easy to keep coming back to Shu time and time again. I still haven’t found all of the shortcuts of each level and I’ve poured hours into the game – being able to play during morning commutes or whilst out and about on the go should help fix that, though.
That’s the big thing this time around; you get to play Shu on the go with the Nintendo Switch. This isn’t the first time that the game has been made available on a portable platform mind, with it actually releasing on the PlayStation Vita too. Given the success of the Nintendo Switch and the fact that people seem to be digging its indie releases though, it may well have found the perfect home for its fluid platforming action. Plus, I actually only played it on the PC before, so this portable convenience is a first time thing with the game for me.
There have been a few bad showings of ports on Nintendo’s platform, but thankfully Shu is simply sublime to play. The colourful world still looks as stunning as ever, the platforming still feels great, whilst the quick pace of each level makes it perfect for bite-size sessions when you can squeeze five minutes of gameplay into your daily schedule. The developers have done a really good job in releasing a game that manages to work incredibly well on the platform without having to make sacrifices to the core gameplay experience. In fact, I’d go as far as saying I had a better time playing it on the Switch than I did on PC, with some of the issues I had there not present here.
Shu is one of those games that is just an absolute pleasure to go back to. I absolutely loved the game when it was released back in 2016, so the opportunity to play it on the Nintendo Switch on the go was too tempting to resist. You know what? Even after the release of the likes of A Hat in Time, Sonic Mania, and even Mario Odyssey, it’s still one of the most enjoyable platforming experiences I’ve had in recent years.
If you enjoy your 2D platforming, you’ve really got to give Shu a purchase. There’s no denying that it might not be for everyone, especially since it slightly alleviates from the norm with its focus on speed-running through levels, but it never stops being a brilliant and incredibly charming platforming experience. It really feels like Shu has found a new and perfect home on the Nintendo Switch.