Shadow Bug (Switch eShop) Review
Ninjas are great. Ninjas in video games are even better. It’s easy to conjure thoughts of dashing around a screen, effortlessly slicing foes with deadly precision and looking extremely cool doing it. Now imagine a game where you control a ninja but have no jump button. And you’re a bug. Whilst it’s easy to suspect this setup might undermine what makes a ninja game appealing, to begin with, a unique control scheme and striking presentation make action-platformer Shadow Bug a thoroughly enjoyable adventure from beginning to end.
As mentioned, the titular blob is unable to jump manually, so movement primarily occurs by tapping/pressing on an enemy causing him to glide across the screen and chop the monster in half. There’s a brief moment where he hangs in the air after an attack, allowing you time to line up your next movement. It’s incredibly simple and intuitive, and before long you’ll find yourself darting between enemies with style.
The mechanics are simple, but the game has enough depth and new ideas introduced across the 2-3 hour journey to keep things fresh. Homing to an enemy allows you to pass between walls, which you’ll need to do to solve puzzles littered throughout the levels. They’re nothing too taxing, consisting of levers, lasers, moving platforms and switches, but they mix up the flow of the game and provide some nice variety from the reflex-based combat leaping. There’s a generous learning curve as well as a forgiving checkpoint system. It’s only in the final third of the game where you’ll really start to have the skills you’ve learned put to the test.
There are 36 levels, including a handful of bosses, strewn across a number of environments for you to conquer the 2-3 hour journey. Each level has three stars (well, shurikens) to earn – one for completing the level, another for beating it within the time goal, and final one for collecting a set number of orbs obtained by defeating enemies. It adds some replay value to what is a rather brief experience but there’s fun to be found in going back and pulling off a perfect run through. There’s also an online leaderboard for those who wish to truly master their ninja skills. Your overall mileage will depend on your completionist tendencies as you’ll probably blast through the game in a couple of sittings unless you’re trying to perfect each level. With that said, the game does feel appropriately priced for the amount of content on offer.
You can play the game with the Joy-Con or Pro Controller in docked mode, or by using the touchscreen in handheld mode. Shadow Bug was originally released for mobile devices and later the PC, and the game is really designed around the precision those platforms offer. When docked, the game uses motion controls to replicate a mouse and move a small insect pointer on the screen that is used to select enemies.
This works serviceably for the early levels, but levels towards the end of the game can become deviously tricky, requiring lightning reflexes and perfect timing to navigate and survive, and the motion controls simply aren’t up to the job. Having the Switch on your lap, one hand on the left joystick for movement and your right hand for tapping is definitely the recommended way to play.
The presentation is also top notch. It layers simple black silhouettes over beautifully designed backdrops. They have a striking hand-painted aesthetic that contrasts well with the minimalist design for the characters and obstacles. The soundtrack is similarly strong, with an oriental score adding a sense of an epic adventure and scale to proceedings.
Shadow Bug all combines for an accomplished package that feels right at home on the Switch, as the short levels are perfect for sneaking in a quick gaming session. It’s a sensory delight, and the unique movement system results in a fresh take on a familiar genre. Shadow Bug is well worth a look.
+ Unique combat and traversal
+ Stunning presentation
- On the short side
- Extreme difficulty spike on last two levels