I’m a huge fan of platformers, but with a vast number released in recent months, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a quality game that brings a unique and fresh experience, all whilst retaining the classic aspects of the iconic platform genre. Shadow Bug is the latest game to give it a go, but how good is Muro Studios debut adventure?
Honestly, it’s rather brilliant!
So, the idea of Shadow Bug is rather simple. Your goal is to get from the start of the level to the white door at the end. That’s the basic premise at least, but it’s not all you’ll be doing as along the way you’ll find a few other things that come into play to beef up the overall goal a little – such as the timer that is counting every last millisecond with set times bound to a three-star rating system on each level.
But you’ll also need to focus on how to get there. You see, Shadow Bug isn’t like your typical platform adventure, at least not control wise, as here you’ll find no jumping mechanic. Instead, to get from platform to platform you’ll need to make the most of ninja abilities by attacking enemies in the air as you slice and dice from area to area. This is how you progress within Shadow Bug and whilst it may sound complicated it’s actually a rather simplistic, yet wonderful, mechanic.
To chop through enemies, players must use the touch screen to tap on the next enemy which will then see the Shadow Bug – armed with lethal katanas – slice through them before another one pops out further along the path. It may sound like a rather lengthy process, but the overall action is surprisingly quick, and the quicker you get your ninja bug up to the next enemy, the quicker you’ll reach the end of the level.
There is another control option that sees you making the most of the joycons to move along the screen and attack, but using the touchscreen is far more natural and clearly the way the game was intended to be played.
There are 36 levels in total to work your way through and the first few stages will ease you into the unique mechanics by gradually adding a slew of dangerous obstacles to ensure you learn how to traverse the area. When you get to the later levels though, all the easing into things is well out the window and by level 25 you will find yourself seriously questioning whether you’ll be able to reach the end.
As you work your way through the game, additional hazards will start to appear such as saws, lasers, robots, green blocky goo and more. There are also 6 boss fights spread throughout that must be overcome should you wish to make it to the end, and these keep things varied rather than simply leaving you to tackle one level after another.
It may all sound very basic, however the unique style of gameplay within Shadow Bug is actually rather incredible. The slicing and dicing of the many enemies is exceptionally satisfying and never feels repetitive thanks to the unique layout and short nature of each level. Whilst there is a story involved, it is the gameplay that is so mesmerising.
If you like your games to be visually pleasing, then Shadow Bug will graciously please in the graphical department too. If I was to compare, I’d probably have to say that it is a mix between the visuals of the shadowy Limbo and BADLAND. It’s hard to believe that comparing it to either of those two fantastic games would be doing Shadow Bug justice, as whilst both were incredible, Shadow Bug is deserving of its own praise with visuals that really are eye popping. There is a clear darkened vibe running throughout, which ties in with being a ninja bug of course, but the visuals aren’t ever dull or grizzly. With locations that look spectacular, traps that scream terror as soon as you approach and an aura of heroism about our protagonist all made obvious from the striking visuals, it’s fair to say that the design efforts have certainly had some passion pumped into them.
It’s not just the visuals or the gameplay that have something magical about them either. Whilst I’m not usually one to worry too much about the soundtrack in a game, the soothing Japanese style and sounds of bamboo flutes found in this are something I could listen to for hours.
If I had to pick out any improvements that could be made about any aspect of Shadow Bug I would probably have to say that it would be nice to see the game showcase the leaderboard a little more. Each level comes with a leaderboard, with speed proving a key factor, and with the pull they have to go back should you not manage all three stars first time around, it would be nice to see players prompted to try and best the times of others… especially with no multiplayer in place. It would be good to also see a Ghost mode implemented so we can see the times of our online opponents in real time. Shadow Bug is the type of game that would fit a competitive mode really well, be it split-screen or online, and whilst there is the option to view other players scores, unless you look for it, it’s not overly obvious. This is of course a very minimal improvement, and it’s got to be said that Shadow Bug is a perfectly fantastic experience without anything of the sort being added.
Overall, and if you’re after a fantastic platforming experience that blends enjoyable gameplay and splendid visuals into one unique adventure, then Shadow Bug is by far the game you should be looking to get involved in.
Massive thanks to: Muro Studio
Release date: March 2018
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)