Friday, August 24

Review: Shio [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There’s something to be said for games that have a great art style, lending themselves to a quick glance in the eShop and creating a temptation for an impulse buy. The very polished looks of Shio very much prompt this sort of response, making it easy for it to catch your attention. In practice though, while its gameplay offers a bit of a different flavor of platforming its minor control shortcomings, kitchen sink collectibles, and unusual story beats keep it from quite living up to the promise you see in those still shots.

Starting with the positives there’s no doubt this is an attractive game that generally performs well on the system whether on a big screen or small. If you’re down for a challenge, have no fear. This title may start off on the light side but once it gets cranked up a bit you’ll be retrying levels repeatedly. To the game’s credit you’re pretty well instantly back in action with no delay the moment you die, something critical to minimizing your frustration and not letting you dwell on your platforming mediocrity for too long. The action is mostly driven by your ability to swing your lantern at lights, which will then give you an extra boost, and many levels will have you chaining these actions repeatedly, keeping you aloft for the bulk of the level. As you get further in you’ll have to additionally contend with a variety of obstacles and things like floors that quickly heat up, but the constant is relying on your timing and skill to hit those lights and keep yourself aloft and moving towards your goal.

Speaking of your goal, that’s definitely an area where the game struggles, especially in light of a game like Celeste. For the most part what small bits of story there are tend to be disjointed and even a bit baffling. Honestly, pretty early on I roughly gave up on trying to really understand any of it, instead tending to be amused by how little sense it made. There’s quite a collection of items you can collect as well but in that same vein I didn’t feel very compelled to care about any of it, though if I saw something I’d tend to try to get it out of habit. My biggest gripe with the game though is that for me there’s just a slight delay in your swinging your lantern, at least for it being at its “sweet spot” and giving you your boost. Though double-tapping had no effect it became my consistent habit and when I’d pay attention I’d notice that the delay was roughly the same as the timing of my second tap. This is likely related to the animation itself but while in early levels the minor delay I was feeling didn’t play a major role as the difficulty ratcheted up it did become a consistent aggravation since there’s little room for error.

Those mostly minor issues aside Shio is a well-presented title with high ambitions that simply can’t deliver the polish to make it all work. If you’re willing to work with it you may find that you don’t notice the delay or can compensate for it, and doing so would mostly nullify my misgivings. That said, when execution is so absolutely critical even a split-second can make all the difference, and as I got further into the handful of hours the game offers this became a consistent frustration. For hardcore platforming enthusiasts this will likely be a treat, but for average gamers it may not be something you’ll be able to stick with to the end.

Score: 7

  • An outstanding overall look
  • Challenging platforming awaits
  • Each stage builds on the previous challenges and adds new elements, keeping gameplay mostly fresh

  • Though I’d consider it to be minor I felt like the swing action/animation was just a little on the slow side, adding an unwanted challenge to the platforming
  • The items don’t really do anything of note and seem to be included just to be there, not demonstrating a great deal of care
  • What story there is comes slowly, in somewhat odd ways, and felt very skippable