Nitchigamer is pleased to welcome Chris Kaminski to the team. Chris is a former video game producer, most notably for MadWorld and Valkyria Chronicles from his time at SEGA. These days he’s producing film and TV. Over to you, Chris:
Shadow Bug is a stylish puzzle platformer for the Nintendo Switch. The game provides moments of surprise and delight as you explore each of the three-dozen atmospheric levels. Muro Studios delivers a compact and entertaining experience that stands apart in a crowded scene of indie platform games.
Shadow Bug Review [Nintendo Switch]
You play as a miniscule ninja that is fighting against an invading horde of gnashing piranhas, angry robots, and other sinister creatures. The goal is quite simple: Get to the end of the level, as quickly as possible, while collecting as many white orbs as you can. You will be rewarded with up to three ninja stars per level. One for completing the level. A second star can be earned for finishing under the par time. And a third star for collecting more than the benchmark of orbs, which can be found strewn about the level and are earned by defeating enemies as well.
Shadow Bug takes a refreshingly minimalist approach. There’s no story for this game. As a matter of fact, there is very little text at all. You’ll get a few instructions on the basic controls and some level names. That’s it.
The gameplay is easy to learn and yet it takes practice to master. Failure rarely feels punishing, which encourages experimentation and leads you gently down a path of discovery. This is an excellent combination of traits for a game that relies heavily on solving puzzles.
One of the uncommon design choices that Muro Studios made was to forego the traditional jump mechanic. There is no button to jump. Instead you can leap across great distances by attacking an enemy. The game was originally designed for touchscreen devices like phones and tablets, which lack controllers and buttons. The limited input makes traditional platform games challenging. Clever designers can use these limitations to create new experiences, which is exactly what happened with Shadow Bug.
Shadow Bug features a new control scheme that is unique to the Switch. You can use the left joystick to move the tiny ninja left and right, and the right stick’s motion controls to move a glowing firefly to indicate where to attack. While it might sound a bit confusing, the controls feel completely intuitive in practice. This control scheme often feels more precise and less-error-prone than touching the screen. You can still use the original touchscreen controls on the Switch if that is your preference.
The level design provides an array of different puzzle types. Sometimes you need to wander off the main path to find a key to unlock a door. Other times you’re timing your attack to avoid dangerous obstacles like lasers or spikes or globs of venom. Many of the levels contain delightful little visual surprises for figuring out something new.
Some levels involve fighting boss monsters. Many of these battles are reminiscent of Zelda games, where you have to figure out the weakness and then repeat that attack three times to kill them. This kind of mechanic feels perfectly suited to a puzzle-based platformer. It adds a welcome bit of variety and challenge to the game.
Shadow Bug also does a nice job of providing hidden areas, secrets caches of orbs, and bonus collectables. That combined with the three-throwing-star rating system provides a reason to play through the game additional times for those who want to achieve 100% completion or compete in speed runs.
The levels are short, so you can easily play for a few minutes and feel like you’ve made progress towards completion. This is the perfect feature for a game that originated on a mobile platform. It’s also for people who have busy lives and find it challenging to sit down to play for a couple hours at a time.
Shadow Bug is an entertaining and imaginative game that is worth checking out for anyone who likes puzzles and platformers. It shows inspiration from many of the greatest games throughout history, from the early arcade games to recent mobile games. It feels analogous to an entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is to say that it provides a polished and thoroughly enjoyable experience that oozes with charm. It feels crafted by people who love the genre.