Shadow Bug Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Muro Studios
Publisher: Muro Studios
Release Date: March 30th 2018
Price as of Article: $8.99 USD, £8.09 GBP
Shadow Bug is a small game from a 2-man indie studio from Finland. Muro Studios formed in 2015 and Shadow Bug followed soon after. Now arriving on the Nintendo Switch with an interesting art style and an action packed premise, is it worth your hard earned cash?
The story is definitely a weak point of Shadow Bug, mainly for the fact there isn’t one. You’re dumped right into the game with little to no explanation and, although the story isn’t always the foremost important thing in a very small indie title like Shadow Bug, it really would have been nice to have something. If you look at the eShop description or a press release you’ll get some motivation for our little ninja doing what he’s doing, but that should be implemented in to the game in my opinion.
In the audio department we have a decent soundtrack. The music really ramps up the tension and the action with its strong drumbeats and epic violins. I really like that the music is always in your face and strong and you always notice how tense things are. I wouldn’t say there’s much nuance to the soundtrack and it’s difficult to differentiate one piece from another, but it’s overall rather well done.
Visually Shadow Bug is gorgeous. With the almost cliched silhouetted foreground, contrasting against vibrant, depth-filled backgrounds, it works well. It’s cliched because it works. It looks really nice and stylistic so why not? Maybe some of you are tired of this style, but this one very much reminds me of Typoman which I also recently reviewed, and that can only be a good thing.
It’s the backgrounds that are surely the star of the game visually. Yes, there’s an air of mystery to the silhouettes of enemies and bosses, but the vibrant vistas of hand drawn art are fantastic and you can easily sit back and admire them for the works of art that they are. There’s loads of layers, even in the foreground and you can see how much effort went into creating this game. Occasionally you do get a background that’s literally a brick wall and that’s disappointing, but aside from the odd couple of areas, it looks lovely.
Performance wise it runs pretty well on the Nintendo Switch in both docked and handheld although I did notice a bit of stutter here and there and even, at one point, I thought my Switch froze, although it was just the loading that took forever.
For the gameplay section I should mention that Shadow Bug was originally a mobile game. But, as I’m sure you’ve read by now, it’s one with a much higher standard. You should be warned though that Shadow Bug was highly optimised and built with touch controls in mind, although the Joy Cons have been made usable with motion controls. Yes, harkening back to the Wii days, the right Joy Con acts as a Wii Remote as such allowing you to point anywhere on the screen like magic. And you know what, it’s pretty great.
You control your little ninja dude either with the left analogue stick or by touching either side of the screen. Unfortunately, despite being a ninja, he hasn’t quite mastered the art of normal jumping. At all. Instead, in order to reach higher ground he must fling himself to slash opponents and use that momentum to take him places. Not only can you use this to jump, but also skim through objects such as walls and doors.
To attack enemies you hover the pointer over them if you’re using the Joy Cons and press the ZR button when in the enemy’s vicinity. Using the touchscreen you simply tap the enemies. I found both methods to be adequate although with the pointer controls you do need to recalibrate them more often than I would have liked. This is done with a press of the Y button. It’s certainly not as accurate as the Wii Remote before it, thanks to the lack of sensor bar, but for a simple game like this that gives you plenty of room for error, it works well enough.
There’re a few mechanics in the game above attacking enemies to go further, usually involving flicking switches, finding keys to unlock doors, avoiding showers of acid and so on, but it’s really the main gimmick that is the most compelling of all. It’s the free flowing feel when gliding from enemy to enemy, darting to your goal, is fantastic and I don’t think it’s done enough.
The primary goal is to just successfully reach the end of the stage but there are two other influences that give you your potential three-shuriken rank. One of them is time. You’re challenged to beat a specific time that’s set for each stage and, in all honesty, they can be pretty tough. It was very rare that I achieved this on my first play through of a stage. The other is the amount of orbs you collect in your run through a level. This is the easier of the two to do since you only need to occasionally go out of your way to pick extra orbs up, most of them are on the route to the ending gate.
Levels are kept short, each of them averaging out at a few minutes each and due to the low 36 level count, you’ve got yourself a pretty short game. It’s definitely one you can finish in one sitting if you really want to. There is room to go back and replay levels if you want all three shurikens for each, as well as finding all the bigger, secret orbs.
There are boss battles which shake things up once in a while and they are quite varied from each other. In some boss battles, you will have to aggressively fight them while others are a bit more passive. I liked them overall and they certainly presented the biggest challenge of the game for me.
Speaking of challenge, after playing the first 20 levels or so you’ll probably be thinking that Shadow Bug is a bit of a cakewalk. However, the fact is, later on the game starts to ramp up and even those with fast reflexes will find a stern challenge in front of them. Unfortunately some of it does come down to the slightly awkward controls where you’re not as fast or as accurate as you should be, or the calibration becomes a bit off mid-flight. Although a lot of it is down to skill too. You really do need to be fast, but not only that, you need to choose the perfect moment to leap to certain places and avoid hazards, even at times taking unorthodox routes.
There’s not really much more to say about Shadow Bug as far as gameplay. It keeps it simple and doesn’t expand on the concept too much which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for the fact it keeps doing the best thing about the game, but on the other hand it could have been a much grander concept.
For value, it’s a difficult one. The Nintendo Switch price of $8.99 or £8.09 is practically double what it is on Steam which is always an annoying point. It’s even less flattering when compared to the original iOS version. No less for the fact that I think that the competition prices are perfectly judged whereas the Switch price is a little ambitious for what i think Shadow Bug has to offer and I think other versions of the game may be optimised better. Obviously it’s still not particularly expensive but I’m sure you can get better value for your money from other games of this price.
Great free-flowing Gameplay
Priced higher than everywhere else