Cyber Shadow (PlayStation 4) Review

By Jenny Geist 16.02.2021

Review for Cyber Shadow on PlayStation 4

Cyber Shadow is an action platformer that acts as a spiritual successor to titles like Ninja Gaiden, developed by Aarne "MekaSkull" Hunziker and published by Yacht Club Games. It tells the tale of Shadow, the sole survivor of a ninja clan that is wiped out under mysterious circumstances. The evil Dr. Progen has taken over the world, so Shadow must traverse through Mekacity, clear hordes of Progen's machines, and uncover the secrets of his clan's destruction. The game wears its retro influence on its sleeve, retaining hard-as-nails action and a retro aesthetic while still bringing in a modern flair. Can this action-packed indie escape the shadow of its iconic aspirations?

One of the most important aspects of any difficult platformer is the controls, and fortunately, Cyber Shadow feels as smooth as butter. Like any good ninja, Shadow is fast and nimble, allowing for extremely precise movement. His only initial manoeuvres are a jump and a sword slash, but playing through each chapter will quickly unlock a variety of other abilities. Every popular ninja trope is here, from throwing ninja stars to reflecting bullets to dashing through the air, and each of these moves feel great to perform. Using these abilities drains Shadow's SP, which can then be recollected by defeating enemies. Levels are designed to promote usage of Shadow's whole arsenal, so properly managing SP is essential.

While the feel of the game is excellent, that only matters if the level design itself is adequate as well. The original Ninja Gaiden is infamous for its rather unfair later levels, and while Cyber Shadow is certainly difficult, it almost always feels fair. Enemies swarm through the stage in chaotic ways, but rarely are they unmanageable. At any given moment, you almost always have a path toward survival; it's just up to you to be skilled and patient enough to carry it out.

Screenshot for Cyber Shadow on PlayStation 4

There's no life system at all, so each challenge can be tried as many times as needed. Checkpoints are spread evenly throughout each area, just rare enough for death to matter, but just common enough to not reset too much progress upon losing. Essence collected from defeating enemies can be spent at these checkpoints to refill health and SP, or to give useful temporary power-ups. These additional elements provide nice options for players who want to adjust the challenge level.

While mostly a linear experience, the level design does have its unique elements. Several nooks and crannies are hidden throughout, hiding items, upgrades, and shortcuts. Areas often wrap around themselves and interconnect, still leading players in a single direction, but in a way that keeps the world cohesive. On a grander scale, every single chapter is tied together and takes place in one large interconnected place; a world map exists for easy warping to previous locales, but beyond that, it's essentially one giant level.

Screenshot for Cyber Shadow on PlayStation 4

As cool as the idea of an interconnected world is, it does lead to one of the weaker aspects of the Cyber Shadow. Due to each area needing to believably connect to the next, the visual variety between chapters is fairly limited. The sprite work and environments still look gorgeous, but the areas are often stuck in the similar box of being caves, sewers, abandoned labs, or abandoned buildings; all locations that don't stand out too much from each other. There are exceptions to this rule of course, especially within some later areas that look quite amazing, but the visual variety is only part of the issue.

The game is split into ten chapters, each with their own mechanics, themes, and music. This doesn't sound like much, but each chapter is fairly meaty, often taking an hour or more to beat in some cases. Lengthier levels aren't inherently bad, but the length isn't always well-utilised. Enemies and gimmicks are repeated so often that the experience can become a blur. None of the challenges are inherently bad, but there are chunks of gameplay within the middle act that aren't as engaging as the rest.

Screenshot for Cyber Shadow on PlayStation 4

Despite some meandering elements in the middle, Cyber Shadow still comes together very well in the end. Without spoiling much, the final few chapters are absolutely the highlight, combining every mechanic learned so far into an intense but rewarding set of challenges. The game's story is nothing super special, but there is a mystery teased throughout the experience that leads to a decent conclusion. Lastly, it should definitely be noted that the music is downright fantastic; Enrique Martin has composed a set of exciting and instantly iconic chiptune tracks that add so much atmosphere to each area.

Screenshot for Cyber Shadow on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Cyber Shadow is not a perfect game; levels occasionally overstay their welcome and the visual variety between locales is quite limited. Still, the core gameplay and design are so polished that it's hard to put down. Nothing feels more satisfying than successfully comboing together Shadow's moves to narrowly survive a perilous set-piece. It learns the best lessons from its classic inspirations while still trying out new things, culminating in a smooth, difficult, and rewarding experience for fans of the genre.

Developer

Mechanical Head Studios

Publisher

Yacht Club Games

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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