Genre: Action, Adventure
System: Steam (also on Nintendo Switch, PS4, & Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Mechanical Head Studios | Yacht Club Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $19.99 | UK £17.99 | EU €19,99
Release Date: January 26th 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Yacht Club Games
Ninjas and Robots
Cyber-Shadow is a 8 bit style platformer where you play as a cybernetic ninja on a quest to save your clan. Count me sold. This is another game that shows its love for the good old retro days and adds modern gaming improvements. On the surface this is a formula that has become very familiar in gaming over the years. But if you give Cyber-Shadow your valued gaming attention there is plenty to enjoy in this cyber ninja adventure.
The plot of the game feels like it fits pretty well in the 8 bit era of gaming. As Shadow, the cyber ninja, you will be jumping and slashing your way through futuristic levels taking down all sorts of cybernetic and mutant baddies. The game is mostly a mix of sword slashing and platforming. Every now and then you’ll be surprised by some interesting gameplay features; such as riding a vehicle and hacking computers in a rather unique ninja way.
You start the game pretty underpowered but that won’t last long. As you progress through the levels defeating challenging bosses and completing the odd ninja trial you will unlock various orbs. These grant new abilities, like sprint or various sword techniques. When you use these abilities it costs stamina, using them at the right moment can make various enemies and hazards much more bearable than pushing through the game with just the sword.
It’s all very over the top and absurd in all the right retro ways and I was totally on board with it. There are 10 levels in total, you do actually end up revisiting the same levels again only the layout has changed, due to the actions you have taken as you progressed through the game. For me it was highly enjoyable, revisiting the older levels with my character powered up and taking down enemies with significant more finesse than when I started was great.
The controls are pretty simple. Making use of only two buttons and the D pad it’s easy to pick up and play the game, but, that’s not to say this will be an easy ride. It’s fun running around the levels destroying enemies in only a few hits and avoiding various hazards by jumping at the right time. The levels are surprisingly long, fortunately checkpoints are frequent. So if you do need to stop, the game is saved up to the last checkpoint so finishing the level is unnecessary if real life duty calls.
The stand-out feature of my experience playing was easily the soundtrack. An additive and memorable chiptune soundtrack that carried me through the levels even if I did keep dying over and over again. The only crime is this soundtrack is not available for me to purchase on Steam yet.
A Helping Hand
There’s an interesting approach to difficulty in this game. You will hit checkpoints regularly throughout the levels, these also act as hubs where you can exchange yellow points for power-ups to assist you, should you find the game a little too tough. Power-ups include; refiling your health and stamina bars or unlocking a temporary item like a little robot that follows you about firing laser beams. The best part is, if you die again and return to these checkpoints, you don’t have to reinvest the points again, the effects are permanent. New power-ups are unlocked every time you need to restart at that specific checkpoint. Of course it won’t be long till you find a new checkpoint and may need to reinvest again. It’s an interesting way to give the player the option to make the game easier or harder. But even at its base normal difficulty the game may be a bit frustrating for some gamers.
I think my biggest niggle by far is Cyber-Shadow over uses the one hit death pits or spikes throughout its levels. This is not helped by the game often placing enemies in utterly horrible places on the level, just out of your reach to slash with the sword and if you get hit you stagger back into a pit to die instantly. It wasn’t fun on the NES and certainly still isn’t fun for me today.
The trouble with Cyber Shadow is it’s not the first 8 bit retro game to be released in the last few years. Games with retro graphics and modern improvements are becoming quite common these days. The market is starting to feel as bloated as the shooty bang bang genre. Heck, Cyber-Shadow is not even the only retro ninja looking game to release recently.
Time to Meditate
Cyber-Shadow feels a bit like that guy/gal at a party you didn’t get a chance to talk to because they blended in too well with all the other retro looking games, I mean party guests. But if you take the time to talk to them, get to know them. There really is an entertaining game here.
Cyber-Shadow’s stand out features are easily; it’s fantastic soundtrack, its cyber ninja aesthetic and its tough but ultimately enjoyable gameplay. The game is tough but not to the extent that I wanted to fling my controller into the PC.
If you have room in your life for another retro inspired classic Cyber-Shadow won’t disappoint.
Final Verdict: I like it a lot