Shu by Coatsink and Secret Lunch

Played on the Nintendo Switch
 Score 9/10 | Indie | Platformer | Hand-drawn Art

 

When I was a young, I was a fanatical BMX rider. Every day after school and on the weekends, I was down the BMX track with my mates. I would wait in line and each of us would take turns at doing certain jumps or a sequence of jumps. After some trial and error, I figured out each jump on the track needed to be approached in its own way. To progress, I needed to figure out the tempo, speed and lift required to land properly and then take on the next jump. If I got one of them wrong there was a good chance I would fall off, and then I would start picking the gravel out of my knees, elbows and hips. I would need to breathe it out, dust myself off, jump back on the bike and have at it again. When everything lined up and you left the lip of the ramp, there’s a moment in between leaving the ramp and landing. In that moment, I would calculate if I was going to make it and if I knew I had nailed it, I would smile and line up the next jump. For a small, but expansive moment it was exhilarating and satisfying being propelled perfectly through the air. That moment made all the practice and pain worth it.

Like riding at the BMX track, Shu requires the correct tempo, speed and lift to progress. Shu is a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer released to the Nintendo Switch, PC and Playstation. A dark god-like creature has be leagued your kingdom and you’re instructed to save yourself and the townsfolk. Shu was developed by Coatsink who also made Gangbeast which is one of the funniest games to play with friends.

The gameplay is about jumping, a lot. There are timed sequences where you’re being chased by the dark god. When not being chased, you are able to take your time and absorb the sites and sounds of this beautiful childlike game.

The controls are simple to use, you can go back and forth up and down, jump and also glide. Along the way you collect different townsfolk who add to your skills. For example, some will allow you to run on water, follow a jet stream and change how fast certain objects move. It adds to the complexity of the game in a fun way. Even though the controls are simple to use, the game itself isn’t easy and needs a fair amount dexterity and correct timing to get past certain spots.

The game’s graphics are polished. Each character is hand drawn and you can tell the developers took a fair amount of time getting it right. The scenes and levels are all different in their own way which created a fresh experience every time I picked it up.

The in-game sounds and music are like waiting your turn to jump at the BMX track. Everyone is relaxed and watching, the trees are swaying and the birds chirping. It’s a soft background noise and, Shu, the main character will make this childlike “ah” noise a lot. It’s oddly soothing. This all changes when the dark god shows up. It’s all thunder and lighting and a hard tempo sound. Just like in the lead to a jump at the track. Shu also comes with an original soundtrack composed by Ross Mcwilliam.

Progressing through the game is trial and error, like at the BMX track. There’s no tutorial. Eventually, I figured out what to do for each section. There are five different lands I explored and in each, there are 21 different chapters. Inside each chapter there are checkpoints. At each checkpoint you receive five lives to get through to the next checkpoint. Most of the time, this was plenty. But in some spots it was so difficult I lost them all. It was frustrating to start from the beginning of each chapter, but it felt fair.

Shu is fun and heart-warming to play. Like in my BMX story, nailing a sequence of jumps is satisfying and you also get lost in the moment. I would play this on the bus and I noticed a few times that I was physically moving around trying to take on a difficult spot. I must’ve looked like a weirdo. But, a weirdo who was having fun! This game is for both young and old gamers out there. Please check it out!

 

Written by Adam “Bruce L33t” Lamotte

 

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