Developed By: Muro Studios
Published By: Muro Studios
Category: Action Platformer Puzzle
Release Date: 3.30.2018
Shadow Bug for Nintendo Switch is a charming puzzle platformer which allows the player to choose between touch- and motion-based controls. Players jump and chop their way through levels past and through traps, obstacles, and enemies in an effort to reach the goal. It’s a fairly simple setup, but complicated strategies and quick fingers are required to master it.
The game itself is very simple to play, on the surface; use the analog stick to move your shadowy ninja bug along the level and attack enemies using one of two input methods. The first, which I found by far the easiest to use, is to use the touchscreen in the Switch’s undocked mode. You simply tap on the enemy you wish to attack and Shadow Bug jump slashes it with his sword. The other is to use a detached Joycon to point at an enemy and pull the ZR button to attack when the enemy is highlighted. I had a huge problem trying to play the game this way; perhaps it’s just my own lack of dexterity, but I had a lot of trouble accurately aiming the Joycon, especially when timing was a critical part of getting past an obstacle. I didn’t feel that the targeting icon was very accurate or responsive when I needed it to move the fastest.
The puzzles themselves often had very simple solutions to figure out; it was simply a matter of executing the actions needed to get past them. Most levels consist of slashing from enemy to enemy, making sure not to fall on traps such as spikes, spinning buzzsaws, or swinging blades. Once I had recognized the patterns to these traps’ movements, it was simple enough to figure out which enemies to hit in which order to complete the level. Some levels required a much higher level of analysis to figure out, but all-in-all the puzzles were the easy part and the execution of the solutions proved much more problematic. It’s one thing to recognize when to strike, it’s another thing entirely to be able to move your fingers fast enough to hit your marks at the right time.
Eventually, at the end of each world (each world consists of about 10 levels), there was a boss fight. These fights were far and away the most challenging (and sometimes frustrating) part of the game. The first boss, which had a drill on the front and spinning buzzsaws all around it, was very hard to hit on its weak spot which had to be done a number of times to win. The good news is that getting killed fighting it only brought me back to the beginning of the fight rather than the beginning of the level. The regular levels had checkpoints as well, but there was no real way to know when I had passed a checkpoint other than to die and be respawned at one. If there was a particularly difficult sequence of traps I was contesting, I was often frustrated at having to go all the way back to the beginning of the level or back a few traps to have to pass a difficult obstacle again.
At the end of a level, the game gives a rating of 1 to 3 shuriken. You get one for completing the level, one for completing the level within the target time, and one for collecting a set number of the glowing orbs that populate each level. Orbs can be collected by defeating enemies or they can be collected along the way in the level either on the path or at hard-to-reach secret areas. I can’t really see any purpose to these shuriken other than bragging rights and completion percentage, but it feels good to get three shuriken on a hard level.
Shadow Bug is just a darn cool game to look at. All of the characters are rendered as silhouettes, creating a really cool aesthetic that works to make each character’s design reflect their purpose and almost even build a personality for them. The hero, who I assume is Shadow Bug himself, is a dark silhouette with bright eyes, fitting for the hero of the story. Most enemies are sinister dark shapes, as are the foregrounds of the levels through which Shadow Bug slashes and jumps. The bladed traps, such as spikes and saws, also have a hint of crimson at the end of their pointy parts, which is a nice, easy-to-read non-verbal cue not to touch them. I mean, you probably already knew not to touch the spinning saw blade without being told, but it is a nice visual touch.
The background graphics are smooth and, in a nice contrast with the foreground, are usually bright. This helps delineate the difference between what is and isn’t an obstacle. For instance, the detailed debris in the background may have the same shape as a shadowy obstacle in the foreground, but because of the color, you know it isn’t an obstacle. It’s very basic design and may not need to be said, but it does help greatly to ease acclimation to the game’s mechanics.
The music is fine; it fits the fast-paced nature and moody atmosphere of the game rather well, but none of the songs stuck out to me as particularly memorable. For the most part, the audio of the game faded into the background as I focused on figuring out the levels themselves. It’s most important to note that the music didn’t distract from the game but it did occasionally add to the atmosphere.
As I said, there are two ways to play Shadow Bug; either undocked with the touchscreen, or by using the Joycons’ motion controls. I said earlier I preferred the touchscreen, but that is a bit of an understatement. I finished the tutorials with the motion controls, but that’s about as far as I could get. When aiming the Joycons at the screen I had a hard time getting the targeting reticle to go where I wanted and there was some lag between when I moved the controller and when the reticle moved on screen. This made some of the more timing-sensitive levels nearly impossible. I’m willing to admit it may just be because I suck, but it was just not fun at all to play with the motion controls. The touch controls, on the other hand, were perfectly sensitive and I had no issues playing the game that way. This game is recommended for touch controls only.
TL:DR; Fun platformer, but don’t play with the Joycon motion controls.
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