Cybershadow is a new action platformer which harks back to the days of 8-bit games both in graphical style but also in its difficulty too. It takes inspiration from the classic Ninja Gaiden format, 2D sidescrolling action, tricky platforming and precise action. It’s out on pretty much everything and it’s worth sinking some time into.
Yacht Club Games have given the world Shovel Knight, and now they’re teaming up with Mechanical Head Studios to publish Cybershadow. This is a retro-looking game, set in a cyberpunk world and after your play session, you’re going to feel like you’ve been through a marathon of sorts because this one is tough.
You play as Shadow, the last Ninja of his kind. Shadow is woken up early on in the game to reveal a sinister and cyberpunk world and it’s your job to understand what’s happened. Shadow is sick and under threat and you have to figure out what’s happened to the world. One thing that immediately grabs you about the game is the gorgeous 8-bit pixel art cutscenes. The story is minimal, there’s a threat, your clan has been destroyed and you’re out for revenge… and off you go.
Gameplay in Cybershadow is inspired by Ninja Gaiden. It’s your job to navigate the world, armed with only a sword, to begin with, a use jumps, dodges and attacks to remove the enemies from your path. The controls are pretty simple – you can attack and jump and that’s pretty much it until you open up a series of power-ups later on in the game. Cybershadow eases you in nice and gentle on the first level, but then the difficulty really ramps up as you get past the first stage. Enemies will attack from the air, ground and throw projectiles so you’re going to have to have your wits about you at all times.
Shadow starts out with a simple katana but as you progress through the game you’ll pick up power-ups and other items to make the battle a little easier. These power-ups are hidden in the environment, for example, knock down a wall and you may uncover a hidden power-up that’ll give your katana an extra edge. As you make your way through levels you’ll get ability power-ups including ninja stars, which allows you to attack from distance. New abilities and items offer up a nice variety to Cybershadows combat giving you the extra tools you are definitely going to need to take on the intense environments.
Enemies come at you at pace as well as the environmental challenges. You’ll likely die a lot and repetition will be your friend here. I may be a little out of touch but I found the difficulty a little frustrating. When you first enter a new area or head into a new level then it’s likely that you’ll fail, but don’t let that discourage you. Get your head down, get back in there and try again as it’s ultimately very satisfying when you take care of that boss at the end of the level.
To help with the ever-increasing difficulty there’s a good amount of regular checkpoints, which you’ll reach with glee. If these checkpoints weren’t there then I’d probably label Cybershadow as being very obtuse, but these little havens make the difficulty motivating rather than off-putting. Each time you make it to one of these checkpoints you’ll get a refill of health and you can also buy SP too. As you make your way through levels make sure you’re picking up money as you go, as this will drop from enemies after you kill them.
Progress through Cybershadow is quite linear, there’s not a lot of retracing your steps or exploration like you would find in a Metroidvania game. This is perhaps a good thing as Metroidvania have become a little oversaturated in the past few years. This is a straightforward linear path, although getting to the end isn’t going to be straightforward at all! There is a little bit of exploration, but these slight side tracks won’t distract from the main objective too much.
I love the 8-bit graphical style of Cybershadow. I am a huge pixel art fan anyways, plus I grew up with the NES and SNES, so it reminds me of sitting on the living room floor as a kid with a controller hooked into the console on the main TV spending summers and weekends trying to beat Castlevania and Contra. I played this on Xbox Game Pass for PC, and the colours and sprites pop off the screen and the animation is done really well. The platforming feels very tight and the overall feel of the game is very satisfying. One of the best elements of the game is the music. Enrique Martin and Jake Kaufman have done a great job and the music works brilliantly with the Cyberpunk aesthetic. This is one of those soundtracks you’d happily listen to on Spotify even when not playing the game.
It’s not the longest game in the world. If you’re getting a beat down throghout them game, then this might make you happy to find out it’s only 8-10 hours or so all the way through. For me, I’d love to see more. It’s the perfect Gamepass game, a phrase which I find myself saying more and more. This is a perfect pick up and play, you don’t have to invest too much in the story and for those of a certain age it’s going to be a trip down memory lane. If you are a fan of the action platformer genre or you liked the old Ninja Gaiden games then this is a must try.
Developer: Mechanical Head Studios
Platform: Xbox Series S/X/One, PS4/5, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 26th January 2021