Remember when platformers were hard-as-nails, not gifting you a route to the next level with infinite lives and impenetrable balloons? Shu does.
Don’t let that gorgeous art style and cutesy exterior fool you, Shu can be savage, brutal, unrelenting and cruel. And you’ll love it for that.
Interestingly, the game doesn’t really go for major gimmicks. Sure, you can float across gaps on a gust of wind, and hold the hand of a clumsy bird to skid across some ice, but the aim is always the same, outrun annihilation and make it home.
And that’s the great thing about Shu, it reminds you why you love platformers rather than try to iterate and reinvent the wheel. There’s still plenty of satisfaction in making those jumps, reaching the next checkpoint, collecting all the butterflies and finding all the babbies.
It’s also plenty refreshing with the regular environment changes as well as twists and turns to your perks and abilities. In Shu, you encounter different birds in the game and have to hold their hand to assume their abilities, like being able to smash through wooden surfaces or bounce between walls. It makes sure that the gameplay is changed up just enough to not only keep you playing, but making sure you’re entertained as you play.
But just when you’re starting to get comfortable with the abilities of your companions – feeling like the Jedi Master of their fancy tricks – you move onto the next stage and have to relearn something else. Shu is devilish like that.
It’s fiendish, too. The game moves swiftly and you can easily get swept up by the pace, making it an ideal test for even the most ardent speedrunner. For instance, the glide can take you slightly too forward and with so many of the jumps needing to be timed by fractions of a second, it can result in a lot of deaths.
It’s all basic platformy stuff to avoid, though, like spikes and pitfalls, Shu doesn’t have any enemies as such, apart from the demonic entity chasing you throughout the game. In many ways, that makes the tension all the more impactful and the chase sequences – serving as semi-boss battles – that much more intense.
What’s more, Shu has found the perfect home on Switch. This game feels like it was designed with a handheld in mind and is so buttery smooth in the palm of your hand you won’t want to put it down. While naturally gorgeous docked and on a big screen, on handheld you’ll never feel more comforted and content.
And that’s partly down to the zen-like soundtrack, delicately playing in the background. It blends in just enough so that it never feels unobtrusive, but if you’re on a particularly challenging section ready to blurt out those expletives, it also does just enough to calm you down and get you to refocus.
I really loved Shu. It ebs and flows brilliantly, the checkpoint system is fair and balanced with five lives restored to you each time you pass. There’s lots to collect, and the gameplay variety is just enough to ensure you stick with it to the end.
It doesn’t rival Nintendo’s best platformers, and the frustrations do mount up until you’re borderline infuriated, but Shu has this wonderful way of reassuring you just when you feel like packing it in.
Shu is still a beautiful, poetic platformer that celebrates the best things about the genre as opposed to the missteps.
+ Zen-like gameplay and score
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Varied and fun gameplay
+ A perfect fit on Switch
– Slight control misgivings
– Gameplay frustrations mount up quickly
8.5 out of 10
Tested on Switch