Developer: Coatsink Software
Publisher: Coatsink Software
Release Date: 23 January 2018
Price: $9.99 / £7.69
Reviewed by Antonio Guillen
Some games rely on a unique hook or gimmick to grab your attention. Shu - the indie game from developer Coatsink Software - doesn’t follow suit, and although it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, gamers who give Shu a shot will be rewarded with a rock solid platforming experience.
Up in Smoke
Shu opens with a minimally animated cutscene, revealing a sea-side town full of small, odd looking folk who are suddenly attacked by an imposing purple smoke monster.
You play as Shu, the silent protagonist who must outrun the inky mauve menace to save his people... and... the world? The plot seems intentionally vague as the game invites you to discover for yourself how best to survive and save the day.
Better with Friends
Initially you travel alone, casually jumping across chasms and gliding on gusts of wind. As you make your way through beautifully bite sized levels you’ll collect butterflies along a fairly linear path. Thankfully the adventure doesn’t stay that vanilla for long.
Things take a delightful turn when you come across companions that grant you new abilities. Whether you’re walking on water, break through barriers, or manipulating the world around you, each skill feels great and complements the level design nicely. Your cute companions rotate in and out consistently, keeping things interesting as you work toward the fairly simple goal of reaching the end of each level.
I was all at once both excited to rush to meet my next comrade and tempted to slow down and take in the scenery. With coastal huts, dark forests, and towering cliffs each canvas was more interesting than the last. Light music allows subtle sound effects too, like lapping water and rustling trees, with the adorable character jabber take centre stage. Subtle chimes hint at the location of hidden collectables as well, including adorable chick babies and mural shards.
You have no health bar, so each hazard or pitfall forces a respawn if you misjudge it. Luckily, checkpoint shrines are placed generously throughout each area. The catch is that you’re given only five attempts to conquer each segment before you’ll have to restart the entire level.
For the most part Shu offers only a moderate level of challenge. Warnings and visual cues seem intentionally subtle making dangers hard to identify without giving up a life. But, after a bit of trial and error, no segment seemed insurmountable.
The game is at its best when it turns up the intensity with unexpected chase sequences. Juggling between skills and navigating obstacles while the monster attempts to cut you down is genuinely thrilling.
Beating each level unlocks a time trial mode, but with no online leaderboards I didn’t feel compelled to speed through them again. Challenge seekers (read:masochists) should stick around for the endgame content.
Shu is a charming, no-frills platformer that offers a constant rotation of interesting abilities. Some obscure obstacles lead to cheap deaths, but a lenient checkpoint system minimizes the frustration. Although I longed for a deeper narrative, the moment-to-moment gameplay is solid enough to keep things interesting between the pursuits which form the game's best moments.
Pros & Cons
+ Constant rotation of fun abilities
+ Decent challenge with forgiving checkpoints
+ Tense chase sequences
- Some cheaply veiled hazards
- Vague premise and goal
- No incentive for abundant collectables