Shu, Face the Oncoming Storm
At this year's EGX expo, I had the pleasure of chatting with the guys from Sunderland-based indie developers, Coatsink, and was introduced to a new platform game called Shu. At the time it was still in development but the game was released to the general public on October 4th and is available on PC (via Steam), PS4 and PS Vita.
This beautifully hand-drawn game harks back to the golden age of platform games and sees the titular character, Shu, fleeing from a huge oncoming storm which threatens to destroy everything around him and his village. As he journeys through different levels of different landscapes, he comes across other people from his village who join him in his quest to get away from the storm and try to put an end to it.
One of the most interesting things about this game, for me, is the gameplay mechanics. As Shu progresses through the levels, he hooks up with other people from his village. When I say they 'hook up,' I mean literally -- not sexily. They hold hands and carry on running. This leads to a very interesting mechanic because each character has their own unique ability.
Shu, who is always the leader in the chain, is able to make his poncho into something akin to a parachute which allows him to glide and catch the air streams to propel them forward. There is another character, called Lati, who has the ability to open and close budding flowers which create additional platforms when open or the musical Okoro whose whistle allows you to dance on water. So based on which villagers you find, this determines the abilities you get to play with. I love this aspect of the game. It means that it is never the same and you constantly have something new to play with.
That's right, there is absolutely no combat in this game. No hopping onto a baddie's head to knock him out or throwing fireballs to kill them as there are no baddies. Well... other than the storm, that is. Each level is just a series of little puzzles to overcome using the characters special abilities. You just have to get through the levels, as fast as you can if you want, and that's it.
The art style of Shu really is one of the games best selling points. It has all been hand-drawn and this adds to the unique look and feel of the game. Each of the characters are distinctly different and kind of in line with their special abilities. These kooky characters combined with the well-designed 3D background artwork makes for a vivid game which is appealing and, I find, it draws you into the game. I have shown this game to my 5-year-old daughter and she instantly wanted to play with because "it looks pretty."
Short but sweet
Shu only has sixteen stages and it can take a little as a few hours to reach the end credits, but that doesn't mean that there is a lack of things to do in the game. As with many other games in this genre, there are collectables to find and, for the competitive among us, there are speed runs, time trials, and high scores to chase. To be honest, given that the game has been entirely hand-drawn, any more levels could detract from the game overall experience. I think that this is so good that I would rather play a shorter, much more polished off game than one that is longer, kind of mediocre and still rough around the edges.
I honestly think that Shu is one of the best indie games of the year. I'm not just saying that for the hell of it but I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game and I can't really find fault in it! The characters are endearing, the story is charming, the artwork is awesome and the gameplay is far from dull. What is there not to like? It is also a family game, which is something that is high on my list of requirements for most games.
For anyone interested in the game, you can download a demo for the PC version via Steam. Make sure you come back here and let us know what you think!
Shu was provided for review by developer Coatsink.