In 2014, a small company called Yacht Club Games enticed the world with its little Kickstarter project called Shovel Knight. I still consider it not only one of the best indie games of all time, but one of the best indie games of all time, period. In the coming years, the Yacht Club will make numerous additions to its Magnum Opus. His main character will appear in games like Yooka-Laylee and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. He even starred in a movie called Shovel Knight Showdown.

We all wondered what the Yacht Club would do next. Well, here they are with their new game… in a manner of speaking. Cyber Shadow was not developed by the developers of Shovel Knight, but was supported and published by them. A company with that much talent wouldn’t want to be associated with an imitation, so I was looking forward to Cyber Shadow, even if it was developed by someone else.

The segments of the Cyber Shadow platform can sometimes be a source of concern.

Cyber Shadow is in the tradition of indie games carefully designed to resemble an NES game in every way, whether it’s the graphics, the scrolling, the sound, or the fact that you only use two action buttons on your controller. You take control of a cyborg ninja to save your former clan from a horde of evil robots and cybernetic hybrids. It’s not really a deep conspiracy, and frankly, it’s better that way. It’s an NES action game that’s not worth investing too much time in the story when there are so many slashers and platformers out there.

For one thing, Cyber Shadow was developed entirely by one person, and that in itself is worthy of high praise. With the exception of the soundtrack, which was composed by none other than Jake Kaufman (so you can imagine it’s high-end), the entire game was conceived, designed and programmed by one man, Finn Aarne Hunziker. On top of that, Cyber Shadow is pretty good. It’s not perfect or as impressive as the Yacht Club’s work or other retro-style games like the near-perfect The Messenger, but it’s still worth it.

Are you a ninja bad enough to save the clan?

At first glance, you may see your protagonist move like Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden, but that’s only half the truth. You swung your sword in almost the same way, but you’re much heavier, a little slower and not nearly as acrobatic. Cyber Shadow’s gameplay looks like a strange mix of Gaiden Ninja, Mega Man and Castlevania. The level design is very reminiscent of the classic Mega Man games, and the upgrade system, character movement, boss fights and side-scrolling ammo reminded me of Castlevania III and its adopted brother Bloodstained : The curse of the moon.

However, the gameplay presents some problems. One thing the developer has unfortunately borrowed from these classic games is the addition of a knockback. There’s nothing more annoying than dying repeatedly in the (somewhat embarrassing) section of the platform because your character flies away as soon as a tiny cybernetic mosquito touches him. Worse, in some of these segments, the enemies are placed in such a way that it’s almost impossible not to get hit by them at least once (and thus die).

I love the boss fights in this game.

Because of this, Cyber Shadow can sometimes feel a little unfair and a little stingy. It’s like it was specifically designed to be unbeatable in the first race. There will always be an enemy or a trapper that will hit you. That doesn’t mean the Cyber Shadow is always dishonest. In fact, his character evolutions and boss fights were his strongest points. Pattern battles are for remembering patterns. You will be maimed on your first attempt and will quickly reproduce outside the arena. After some trial and error, you manage to beat the boss without getting hit. The more bosses you lose, the more bonuses you get, making the second half of the game slightly more forgiving. There are also hidden improvements scattered throughout each level.

Bad robot with backpack. How nice.

Cyber Shadow isn’t the best retro-inspired indie ninja platformer I’ve played recently, but it’s still worth your time. It’s unfair and frustrating at times, but once you reach a boss fight or a higher level, you’re greeted with surprisingly entertaining action with high-quality graphics and soundtrack. The fact that it was designed by one person makes it even more impressive. It’s not quite what I expected from Deckhead Knight’s first position at Yacht Club Games, but it didn’t disappoint.

The animations aren’t as fluid as those of other 8-bit-inspired indies like Shovel Knight or The Messenger, but they’re still pretty good, especially if you play them in portable mode. Despite the simplicity of the controls, the gameplay suffers from some inconsistencies. The platform is a bit wobbly, the KO is boring, and most enemies are either flying or too small to make your limited attacks useful. These are problems you can get used to, but they are still annoying.
An iconic chiptune soundtrack that manages to sound epic and retro at the same time. This is just where the Cyber Shadow shines brightest. There are times when Cyber Shadow seems like a challenging but fair experience, and others when the level design makes you feel like it was made specifically for you to trot around. The game shines in boss fights and exploration sections. During platform sections, it becomes a painful nightmare.
Last block: 7.5

Cyber Shadow is available now for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

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