Cyber Shadow is impressed by a protracted line of video games that didn’t appear to care whether or not you loved them.

Ninja Gaiden, and different ultra-difficult platformers of its period, discovered attraction in making you stick round by means of every punishing dying. Developer Mechanical Head Games has modernized that strategy to problem with Cyber Shadow by making one thing that lives as much as the legacy of these retro video games, whereas additionally feeling approachable and honest.

Cyber Shadow is a 2D action-platformer that follows a cyber ninja named Shadow who has to avoid wasting a dystopian metropolis that’s been overrun by evil machines. As in most platformers, which means that I spend most of my time leaping over spikes, traps, and dozens of different obstacles, all whereas utilizing Shadow’s katana to take out the robots which might be in my method.

Shadow the main character of Cyber Shadow stands in front of a temple

Image: Mechanical Head Games/Yacht Club Games

Drawing inspiration from NES video games like Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, and Shatterhand, Cyber Shadow makes use of pixel artwork to deliver out the beautiful shade distinction in every setting and spotlight the sport’s distinctive enemy designs. The sport is accompanied by an excellent chiptune soundtrack.

Despite its retro fashion, Cyber Shadow by no means feels previous. Unlike related video games akin to Shovel Knight (developed by Yacht Club Games, the writer behind Cyber Shadow), which featured gradual, purposefully delayed leaping, and mechanics that felt like they had been ripped from an NES cartridge, Cyber Shadow feels comparatively trendy. Every motion feels reactive and snappy, giving the sport a faster really feel than its inspirations.

Cyber Shadow even consists of midair management of your jumps. If I’m in the center of a bounce to the proper, I can nonetheless instantly flip to the left, slash an enemy, and switch proper again round. This type of quickness permits the sport to supply advanced platforming and quicker enemies, whereas nonetheless giving me time to react.

Another asset that helps Cyber Shadow is its visible readability. The sport’s ranges characteristic rooms with attention-grabbing enemies, leaping puzzles, difficult-to-dodge traps, and sometimes a mix of all of three. These rooms are virtually all distinctive, and interesting to beat, however they’re additionally very simple to grasp.

Even in the busiest rooms, the place there could be six or seven enemies, shifting platforms, collectibles, and meticulously timed traps, all the objects have their very own distinctive look and animations that make them simple to pick. I used to be all the time in a position to preserve the dozens of on-screen interactions separate, and after I misplaced observe of one thing, it felt like I used to be not residing as much as the sport’s problem, somewhat than a particle that bought misplaced in the shuffle. Almost each dying I suffered in the sport felt prefer it was my fault, which all the time gave me a purpose to respawn and check out once more.

Shadow from Cyber Shadow uses a fireball power against enemies

Image: Mechanical Head Games/Yacht Club Games

And generally, attempting once more meant greater than 5 or 6 journeys again to the identical checkpoint. While the deaths virtually all the time felt honest, that doesn’t imply I by no means bought pissed off. Thankfully, the sport even has a built-in system to alleviate that frustration, ought to you end up caught on a very powerful checkpoint.

Cyber Shadow has an in-game foreign money you can choose up by destroying glowing orange orbs that litter the sport’s ranges. This foreign money can be utilized to improve particular checkpoints that break up areas in every stage. While the most elementary checkpoints will simply restore Shadow again to full well being, sure ones — particularly these earlier than longer and tougher areas — could be upgraded to do issues like recharge Shadow’s magic energy (which lets him throw shurikens or fireballs that you just unlock all through the sport) or spawn a uncommon magical merchandise. These gadgets are the place the problem help comes into play.

These gadgets basically energy ups that assist make the sport a bit of simpler. One is a spinning ball of power that does harm to surrounding enemies, one other is an enormous defend, and one other is an assault with longer vary. While I can discover these in the regular sport at very particular moments, it seems like I’m activating a cheat code after I choose them up from an everyday checkpoint.

In different latest retro-style platformers, if a participant dies too many instances in a single part, the builders would possibly determine to show a immediate that asks in the event that they wish to decrease the problem stage. But Mechanical Head Games’ system is much better. It nonetheless lets the participant full the content material because it was supposed; they only get a bit of further enhance, and it’s gone (most of the time) by the subsequent checkpoint. I by no means had sufficient foreign money to activate all the checkpoints, so upgrading one all the time felt like an vital selection. Or I may skip the gadgets completely if I wasn’t struggling.

Shadow faces off a giant tank boss in Cyber Shadow

Image: Mechanical Head Games/Yacht Club Games

I used to be notably grateful for these things after I confronted off in opposition to the sport’s bosses, which I simply needed to get by means of as quick as potential. I’m at present midway by means of the sport, and few of the battles have been memorable; most of the bosses’ skills have been boring. They’re nowhere near the high-water mark of high quality set by the ranges that lead as much as them, so in the uncommon occasion that I died throughout one, I merely purchased an merchandise, killed the boss shortly, and bought again to the good components of the sport.

There’s a wonderful line between difficult video games and irritating ones, particularly once you’re attempting to pay homage to video games that had been launched three a long time in the past. But with Cyber Shadow, Mechanical Head Games proves that with a couple of good, trendy twists, it’s potential to make a retro-style platformer with all the problem of the previous, and few of the frustrations.