Developed By: Mass Creation
Published By: Mass Creation
Category: Arcade, Fighting, Action, Multiplayer
Release Date: 01.21.21
The beat-em-up formula has been pretty well set for a few years. You’ve got one or two attack buttons that you use to set up combos, you can jump, and, most importantly, dive kick. Shing! sets out to shake that formula up a little bit by introducing a novel way to pull of combos. It also throws in a level of world-building you don’t often see in the genre for good measure. As we know, though, good idea are only as good as their execution. Does Shing! live up to its potential? Short answer? Mostly. Long answer? Keep reading.
Ninjas, Oni, and Starseeds, Oh My!
Shing! opens with a horde of Oni demons raiding the Spire, which houses the Starseed. The Starseed is the foundation of society; it provides the power upon which civilization relies. Unfortunately, the Oni manage to steal the darn thing despite the efforts of the Spire’s guardians. The Spire’s two remaining guardians, Tetsuo and Aiko, team with two new heroes from the nearby city’s guard, Bichiko and Wilhelm. They’re all ninjas, and they’re all out for Oni blood. Oh, and the Starseed – they also want to get that back. So, the story’s fairly basic, but it works. It goes a little deeper than the average beat-em-up, like I mentioned before, but we’ll get to that in that when we talk about the level structure which we’ll do… right now, I guess.
Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go (To The Right)
Every level in Shing! is broken into four distinct parts. The first part, and the bulk of the game, is the traditional beat-em-up structure. Walk to the right, beat up lots of enemies there, walk to the right again, beat up enemies again, repeat for a few more rounds. There are plenty of enemy types, most of which require their own unique strategies to defeat. The enemy types really ensure that you can’t just spam one attack the whole game, which helps Shing! stand out from the crowd in terms of gameplay diversity. The second part of every level is the boss fight. Each boss has its own unique mechanic to master, which again plays to Shing!’s greatest strength; the gameplay never gets repetitive.
Challenges and Lore
Additionally, each level has a challenge and a lore dump area. Challenges are very, well, challenging, but also really help to hone whatever skill is being tested. One of the early challenges makes you perform multi-hit aerial combos. It took me a while to get past it, but by the end I was an absolute master of juggling Oni. Considering aerial combos are a great way to manage large groups of enemies at once, it became a vital strategy for me. The lore dump area just lets you choose one of four topics for your characters to discuss. It fleshes out the characters and game world lore nicely, and certainly makes for a deeper narrative aspect than most beat-em-ups provide.
Stick It To ‘Em
Shing! may have a deeper lore than most games in its genre and some impressive versatility in its enemy types, but its most unique aspect is its control scheme. Instead of using the ABXY buttons for combo attacks, Shing! utilizes the right thumbstick, becoming the world’s first (or at least the first that I’ve played) twin-stick beat-em-up. Regular attacks are performed by tilting the stick in the direction you wish to attack, while tilting the stick up launches enemies into the air for aerial combos. Moving the stick in full or half circle directions executes special attacks.
It was a little awkward at first; my right thumb is trained to mash buttons and adjust cameras, after all. It took me a couple hours, really, to get used to moving my right thumb with that kind of precision. The challenge sections really helped me get going in that respect, but the awkwardness never truly went away. But that’s not really the game’s biggest problem. The game lets you jump, and there is a separate kick button, but you can’t do a dive kick. A beat-em-up with no dive kicks? That’s just plain wrong.
Shing! has a few other cool ideas that help set it apart. First, you don’t have to limit yourself to one character for your whole playthrough. Instead of extra lives, you can just switch between each of the four playable characters at will. If one of the ninjas falls, you just pick the next one and proceed as normal. The characters don’t really play all that differently, but it’s cool that the game encourages players to try everyone out. Lastly, levels, challenges, and lore areas all provide yin yang medallions; collecting medallions unlocks new costumes for the characters. You can choose costumes before the level begins, but only for the first character you select. You can’t change costumes for the other three characters, which is kind of a bummer.
Sights and Sounds
Shing! features fairly good 2.5D graphics. Judging by some PC gameplay videos I’ve watched the Switch version’s graphics are just a little bit downgraded, but that’s a depressingly common aspect of Switch ports. I’ve gotten used to it. The good news is that the Oni and ninjas all look cool, if a little generic. Bottom line, though, the game looks good. The sound design picks up a lot of the slack, with quality voice acting and a high intensity soundtrack that pumps up the game’s action vibes. Overall, the art direction, like the gameplay, is solidly designed with no major holes.
For avid beat-em-up fans, Shing! provides plenty of reasons to pick it up. It has an original control mechanic, it provides an adequate and diverse level of challenge, and it looks and sounds great. There’s even a whole couch co-op option that I never really got to test out thanks to social distancing. There are some warts, however. Personally, I never felt fully comfortable with the right thumb stick control scheme even though I became more comfortable as I played the game’s challenge levels. And, to reiterate, it HAS NO DIVE KICK. Seriously, how do you not have a dive kick? It’s one of the top three reason I even play beat-em-ups. Regardless, Shing! is a good game, and will appeal to both fans of the genre and anyone who likes exploring unique action gameplay mechanics.
Digital – $19.99
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The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.