Monday 28 June 2021

Cyber Shadow Review (Steam)


Written by Thomas G Sharpe

Shadow is a cyborg; thus cyber. Awoken from his cyberslumber to defeat a biomechanical menace that needs some cyberjustice. Shadow has some intense cyberglare going on, that even his cheeky robo-sidekick cannot dissuade him from. As Shadow, you slash and jump and dash and fling and slice across Mekacity (which I guess is a blend of mecha and mega, maybe?) in this brutal ninjavania romp.

The two-shot of limited 8-bit visual aesthetic and pitch perfect bleep-bloop music set a nostalgic cyberstage. Playing on keyboard I re-binded a couple of keys to make them make sense and it chucks you straight in. You will recognise the form of this immediately; enemy patterns, timing your jumps and attacks. ‘Nuff cybersaid. OR IS IT…

Cyber Shadow, in measured, slow and deliberate moves, reveals its hand as a progressive evolution of Ninja Gaiden (it’s more direct ancestor than weird uncle Castlevania), not just an imitator. Checkpoints, rather than lives, may irk some cyberpurists, but I found it a well-needed cybersupport. After weeping after an hour of playing Soulsvania Salt and Sanctuary, or never really completing Metroid 2: Return of Samus on my Gameboy as a kid, it was nice to get a bit further into something of this ilk (disclaimer: have not completed Cyber Shadow as I am trash).

Alongside the cybercheckpoint system, which to me only half the time was placed correctly for my patience level, there is an upgrade system. New power-ups and abilities are unlocked at consoles which you pay for using the little tokens defeated enemies cyberspew out. This gave a sense of meaning to defeating enemies for me. Health is obtained from chests, and there are moments of back-tracking into secrets. In short, there is new-ness couched in this old-ness, and it is that personalisation, that mutability that gives Cyber Shadow a kick into something more identifiable, more itself, and therefore more enjoyable.

The sprite work is admirable but sits firmly in the unadorned 8-bit era. Yes, it is cyberevocative and the biomech denizens of Mekacity reminded me of some of Gradius: Interstellar Assault’s enemies, all spikes and giblets in a couple of parts. Animations are stripped back, movements are telegraphed reasonably well, and Shadow controls well. Indecision is not your cyberfriend, and often my inexperience was held up to harsh criticism by my lack of familiarity with platforming. In this sense, Cyber Shadow has strong DNA of its predecessors.

Cyber Shadow’s central thrust, to me, is that it has sacrificed the sweaty-cyberpalmed tension of having one-life-left for the persistence and compulsion of the one-more-go. It may well give more uninitiated players greater access. And why not indeed! A careful, considered and, importantly, fun piece of work like this should be able to be enjoyed on several cyberlevels.

I’d fully recommend cracking on the CRT and jittery video effects, because, why not? And enjoy the mindless story depicted in belting animations, while resisting the urge to snap your cyberkeyboard in half. With a limited-life mode option, slightly more forgiving jumping, and the soundtrack available to stream or download, I may even bump the score higher.

Overall 8/10

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