Review: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
The game is a 2d platformer which features action, puzzle and exploration elements. Shantae: Half Genie Hero has been developed by Wayforward Technologies and is the fourth installment in the series, which has originated on the Game Boy Color.
About the game
Some people make comparisons of Shantae to Metroidvania games and some of those are absolutely just. As a half genie, Shantae is able to transform herself into different animals, which will help her reach new locations in the multiple levels she is able to visit. Shantae can choose the levels and worlds she goes to through a world map. There is also one hub world, which features vendors, story elements and quests, giving the game some RPG and adventure elements as well.
Throughout the course of the game, Shantae will be able to unlock new animal forms and also new powers for those. This is a very interesting approach to levels, as revisiting those can give them some interesting new areas to explore and also allow new gameplay and puzzle challenges for the player to master.
Story and Atmosphere
Shantae is the protector of Scuttle Town. As work is tough, your uncle is using age-old blueprints to build a dynamo to scare off all possible attackers, making sure the town stays safe and you needing to do less work. However, discussing the details with your uncle, the town’s main street has just gone under attack by a crew of pirates and large parts of it are already destroyed. While you are able to repel the attack, the mayor is unhappy with your performance and fires you.
With your kind spirit and the desire to get your job back, you try to help as many people as possible with their tasks, with one of them being to obtain all the parts your uncle needs to build the dynamo. The characters you meet and help oftentimes have some very distinct features and personalities, which really help to make the world feel alive.
This is one key aspect that is done well in this game. Everything is polished; menues, animations, combat and movement feel very smooth and responsive. The art is well-designed and the 2d animated sprites blend in well with the 3d models of the game. While the game is mostly text-based, some character lines are voiced, which gives the game a very unique charm. The game even features a lot of enjoyable humorous elements, both text and visually-based. This kind of polish and care taken by the developers definitely adds worth to the game and makes it more likely to fulfill its value proposition.
For a 2d platformer, fluid and responsive controls are of upmost importance to create a satisfactory gaming experience. Shantae fulfills these very well. The basic movement is very intuitive and creates a good foundation for all the other elements. The controls work great and what is especially well done in this game, is how it teaches you its mechanics.
It is oftentimes unclear in platformers if water will kill you. The game however uses a smart way to trick you into jumping into the water. You’ll then notice that water is traversable and this rule is now clear for the rest of the game. This is just one of many examples on how the game accomplishes to tell you all about its mechanics.
The main feature of the game would be Shantae’s transformation. As a half genie, she is able to unlock transformations, which will then allow her to access more locations in the levels. For example, getting the crab transformation lets Shantae dive underwater. Furthermore, the transformations can be expanded upon with more abilities, which you can unlock like the crab claw. With it you are able to damage enemies in crab form and cut through underwater plants, which block your path.
It is generally very clear on what abilities do and how to use those; two of them could have been explained better though. One of these would be letting Shantae fall through a small platform by pressing down and the jump button simultaneously, however this input combination should have been shown to the player in some form. Another is the dash while in elephant form. At one point in the game it is required of you to know that the elephant dash is able to traverse rather large gaps and if you were unaware of this, you could end up wandering around a level endlessly to find the missing collectibles.
You will be revisiting older levels in this game, as the game encourages exploration and lets you go to new places you were previously unable to reach with new abilities. This actually changes up every single level quite a bit on a repeat visit and is a sign of good game design. The game tends to alternate between giving you a new level and asking you to return to older levels for a particular quest, giving it a good pacing overall.
It is possible to get stuck in a few places though, so make sure to ask all villagers for some clues and if you need even more than that, ask the lady in the bathhouse. The game will avoid directly telling you what to do, but through combination of all the different clues you get, you should be able to figure out what to do.
Overall, the gameplay is great and it features two difficulty modes that you can choose from. If you are up to a challenge, choose hardcore mode and you will have to learn the levels and the bosses to be able to beat them. As the exploration and puzzle aspects of the game are unable to give you a reason to replay it, the hardcore mode gives the game replayability, as the focus of the game switches to the challenges the platforming and combat now provides on your second playthrough. Replayability is something that can be very important to the value of a game and we’re glad that this game offers it.
The Switch Version
Looking at the performance of the Switch, it is a rocksolid 60 frames per second at 1080p in docked and 720p in undocked configurations. What especially stands out in this game is the HD Rumble. It is extremely well implemented, giving you precise feedback to the movement of the character by matching the HD Rumble to Shantae’s footsteps when in a transformed form. It is a neat feature that works especially well when playing the game in silent mode, as it manages to replace the acoustic feedback present in the game.
As Red Value Gaming, we try to review games a bit differently to others, by giving a second review score in form of a monetary value. With this value, we try to give you an objective measurement of the content of the game. This system works through comparison to other games we’ve reviewed and is evaluted seperately to the actual score we give. Let’s just use Snake Pass as a baseline, as it is similar in scale and identical in price to Shantae.
Snake Pass got us 9 hours of playtime, while Shantae delivered us only 6 and a half. Each game goes for a different kind of graphics style, but we believe both are extremely polished and are of a similar level of quality. Snake Pass offers some replayability in form of time trials, while Shantae has an entirely different difficulty mode, which changes the focus of the game from exploration and puzzles to platforming challenges. However Shantae does offer a much more fleshed out story and its humour goes a long way in making an enjoyable experience. Overall, we value Shantae at $15, which is just below Snake Pass’s $17. Snake Pass does edge out Shantae in its value, as its base playtime is longer and its gameplay is much more unique.
Shantae is a great game, with a cool artstyle, a funny and interesting story and responsive controls. We give it a rating of 83 as it is a really good platformer. There were a couple of moments in the game that could have been executed better, which would have elevated the rating a bit. Overall, we can recommend this game, but you might want to hold out for a slight sale if you’re on a budget.
(out of 100)
Shantae is a great game, with a cool artstyle, a funny and interesting story and responsive controls. There were a couple of moments in the game that could have been executed a bit better though. Overall, we can recommend this game, but you might want to hold out for a slight sale if you’re on a budget.
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