Shadow Bug (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 29.03.2018

Review for Shadow Bug on Nintendo Switch

Is a platformer truly a platformer if there's no way to jump? After all, jumping is what gives a platformer its platforming element. Shadow Bug looks like a platformer and feels like a platformer, but it's lacking a conventional jumping method. By removing the ability to jump, however, Muro Studios has created a unique scenario where a new mechanic has to be introduced in order for the game to work within its genre. In lieu of jumping over enemies and obstacles, the titular Shadow Bug has to gain verticality by tapping enemies on the Switch's touchpad. This shift from jumping to touching re-contextualises what it means to be a platformer, offering a fairly fresh take on the genre while maintaining its spirit.

By no means should platforming work without jumping. It is perhaps the most crucial element involved in movement within the genre, so removing it would naturally create the necessity for a workaround. Muro Studios has stripped players of the ability to jump in Shadow Bug and replaced it with a touching mechanic where vertical movement is only possible through tapping enemies on the touchscreen. It isn't just an alternative to jumping, however. The touch element allows for the eponymous bug to pass through walls non-traversable via walking and to jump indefinitely so long as enemies are on-screen. In many ways, the removal of a conventional jump has paved the way for more varied movement.

Screenshot for Shadow Bug on Nintendo Switch

As conceptually strong as the movement through touch mechanic is, it's valueless without the level design to back it up. Thankfully, each stage is crafted in a way where the mechanic can be fully taken advantage of. Levels take on traditional platforming scenarios and unique situations reliant on the lack of jumping alike. It's almost humorous finding Shadow Bug in a situation that could be easily trivialised by jumping. The need to wait for enemies to pass by, in order to trigger a lunge at them, is an inspired take on platforming, one that ignores all common sense in favour of an interesting alternative.

The unique situations, where stages are more walled off than they are full of bottomless pits, typically make great use of chaining enemies to gain momentum and height. Boss fights, also, put Shadow Bug in situations that wouldn't be possible in a traditional platformer. The first boss, especially, is a great example of what can be done without a conventional means of jumping. There are two enemies floating in the air that need to be attacked to dodge the boss, but the boss can also kill said enemies, necessitating careful touches. A touch too early can result in Shadow Bug landing straight on the boss and dying, but a touch too late could mean stranding Shadow Bug as the boss will have already taken out the foe.

Screenshot for Shadow Bug on Nintendo Switch

Shadow Bug's short length naturally lends itself to speedruns and replays, although it's not without fault. While there is a ranking system at play, it's incredibly easy to get three stars. For the majority of the stages, it's more than likely to get a perfect rank on a first go round. With a few exceptions, the main game does fall on the easier side, but those exceptions are quite difficult in their defence. That said, however, a mostly easy title with some incredibly challenging stages doesn't exactly make for a satisfying difficulty curve. The last few stages, especially, crank the difficulty up to disproportionate levels. On the plus side, it is difficulty bred out of the need for legitimate skill. A quick finger is absolutely necessary in mastering the last stretch. While there is an alternative gyroscopic approach to the controls, it is not recommended. Aiming with the Joy-Con simply isn't as responsive as touching the touchpad. In fact, using a controller for the whole game would likely double the challenge given. The gyroscope aiming simply doesn't offer the fluidity necessary for this type of platforming.

Screenshot for Shadow Bug on Nintendo Switch

Aesthetically, Shadow Bug is definitely better for its unconventional art style and colour palette. The emphasis of black and white on muted, yet still vibrant, backgrounds makes for a highly memorable experience. Enemies, obstacles, and death traps are made incredibly clear by the art direction. It would be easy to muddy all the assets together, but enough care is taken to ensure that playing the game is never confusing. Creative both artistically and aesthetically, Shadow Bug makes for a fulfilling alternative to the typical platformer.

Screenshot for Shadow Bug on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

With a fast-paced approach to platforming, and a gimmick that allows for unique movement without running thin, Shadow Bug establishes itself as one of the more creative approaches to the genre. Touching enemies to gain verticality and traverse across the stage is a genuinely inspired workaround to conventional jumping, and the level design, thankfully, takes full advantage of the mechanic. A gyroscopic approach is available for anyone who wants to play with the Joy-Con, but it unfortunately pales in comparison to the touch method in terms of fluidity. Likewise, there are some rather inconsistent dips and rises with the level design, but, for the most part, Shadow Bug remains a highly enjoyable, if a bit short, platformer from start to finish.

Developer

Muro Studios

Publisher

Muro Studios

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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