If you asked me to develop a game all on my own, I wouldn't know the first place to start. In fact, even if I was versed in coding and programming, it would probably still seem like an immeasurable task. Aarne "MekaSkull" Hunziker is way more courageous than me in this regard, however, and has developed the tough indie platformer Cyber Shadow, with Shovel Knight's Yacht Club Games stepping in as a publisher. I've recently spent a while playing through the game, and while it does have a lot of potential, there are some areas that leave me a little disappointed.
The storyline of Cyber Shadow follows the ninja Shadow, who after awakening from a long slumber finds himself in a new cyborg body in the future. After being freed by his robot companion L-Gion, Shadow learns that the evil Dr. Progen has unleashed his synthetic life form army on Mekacity, and has trapped all of Shadow's clanmates in the process. As the reformed Cyber Shadow, you will be expected to cross Mekacity to free your clanmates, stop Dr. Progen, and discover a whole range of alarming secrets along the way.
Cyber Shadow is a 2D platformer: You have to move through a level, defeating enemies and picking up various items along the way. But, it isn't easy. This title is on the brink of being hardcore, and you can really tell that is the case as levels are designed in such a way that they almost demand perfection. There are various checkpoints throughout a level to help move along progress, but they are few and far in-between, and should you die it will mean a long run back through a portion of a level you have passed through before.
This extends to combat and the generic movement mechanics. Cyber Shadow has simple to understand combat and movement, but it also has a high skill ceiling. What I mean is that this game has basic mechanics, but it requires lots of thought and skill putting them into effect and using them to their best potential. Contrary, if you think you can pick up Cyber Shadow and blast through it like Shovel Knight, you'll be sorely disappointed - and will likely die... a lot.
I will say that while the combat - which generally involves slicing enemies with your katana, or throwing shuriken's and kunai at them - is tough, the boss fights are less so. The difficulty for this game comes from having a lot of lethal objects on the screen at once, and in boss fights that's often reduced to just your opponent. They do, however, have much larger health pools to regular enemies that require you to slice away for quite some time, alongside new moves that can be deadly, but it's way less stressful than say working through some of the platform-heavy levels.
To add a degree of progression, there are also several unlocks to be earnt throughout the game, most of which come from freeing your clan mates after defeating a level boss. Upgrades could be a new weapon alike the aforementioned kunai, a new ability like a double jump or wall sliding abilities, or even extra health to increase your resilience to taking hits, or Skill Points so you can use abilities more often. You have to keep progressing through the storyline to earn these, and while the game does become more interesting with each one you unlock, the early portions - where Shadow is very bare in an ability sense - can be quite a slog to push through.
One of the strengths of Cyber Shadow is without a doubt it's fantastic 8-bit graphics that not only delivers a compelling looking dystopian futuristic world, but also packs them with colour and charisma. Similar to Shovel Knight, Cyber Shadow is a game that excels in its visuals, and for that matter its soundtrack that captures the pulsating chaotic world the game is set in. You really get the feeling that this was developed with inspiration from classic SNES titles like Super Metroid, and it pays homage to them brilliantly.
Even with its fantastic art and sound direction, Cyber Shadow doesn't quite hit all the marks. You can tell this title has been held to an incredibly high standard in a development sense, but there's certain areas that leave me wanting more in the gameplay. I don't mind challenging platformers, but the brutal intricacy this game demands in its movement and general combat can be off-putting at times. With this being said, if you are looking for an amazing looking and challenging 2D arcade title - one where you will find very little mercy - then Cyber Shadow might just be the perfect game for you.