Shu (Nintendo Switch)

8 Overall Score

Unique art style & visuals | Challenging but with frequent checkpoints | Solid platforming experience

Too short | “Cheap” deaths | Strips new abilities too quickly

Last September at PAX West, I was wandering the floor of the expo hall, scanning the Indie Megabooth for Nintendo Switch signs and checking off games on my list, when I spotted one that had somehow slipped through the cracks of my awareness. Mind you, it was the end of the weekend, closing in on the end of day four, and up until that point the Indie Megabooth had been a constant crush of people trying to navigate narrow lanes and line up front of tiny booths. However, seeing the sign for Shu was like a fluorescent light on a dark highway, because my eyes went straight to it thanks to the slight easing of the crowds at four thirty on a Monday. I got in line—a one-person line—and sat down to play. You can find my first impression here.

Now, having had the chance to explore the game in a much more comprehensive capacity, my thoughts are similar but mostly unchanged since taking a crack at the demo level (which was actually just level one).

First, however, some background. If you’re unfamiliar, Shu was originally released in 2016 on Steam, developed by Coatsink and Secret Lunch. It garnered positive reception as a charming, aesthetically pleasing 2D (2.5D?) platformer—and one look at an in-game screenshot more or less screams “this should be on Nintendo Switch.”

And now it is (among other platforms). But how does it actually shake out on the Switch? Is it worth the time and investment?


While I don’t want to spend a lot of time here, it’s worth reiterating that Shu’s visuals are gorgeous, the stylistic choice of artwork stunning. It’s also delightful to see 2D characters running on and interacting with a 3D environment. There is a strange dichotomy, though—while the characters could certainly be described as “cute,” the mysterious, apocalyptic-esque storm is downright creepy. This is a good thing, because it means visual engagement is persistent—it’s less likely that you’ll get bored looking at it. Which is an important point, for reasons we’ll outline below.


If you’re familiar with Egyptian mythology, we’re sorry, you’re going to be disappointed—the story has nothing to do with Shu, the personified god of air. However, the connection to the name ‘Shu’ and the glide ability of the main character is clear.

Anyway! The actual story here is non-verbal, in the sense of the narrative is set up via animation rather than chunks of text. It’s short enough to get you invested, but long enough to make sure you’re well aware of your motivation before diving into the story—along with pulling a few heartstrings in the process. The severity of the story (when you really think about it) sets the player up for the difficulty of the game to come. And that’s where you might be more surprised than you’d anticipated.


Throughout the game, Shu will introduce you to a shifting set of abilities, earned from the folks you meet along the way. Your base ability is a glide, but it quickly becomes critical to learn how to shift between glide and other secondary abilities in an instant—mid-flight or mid-leap, for example.

Between worlds, the abilities will change, which provides a fresh element to the gameplay on the constant—however, this is also a tricky approach to balance, as it risks player frustration after they’ve become used to (or mastered, or not quite) a previous ability and may now feel confident and ready to use it moving forward. If you’ve discovered that you love opening flowers up to become platforms (or are still getting the hang of it and would like more practice), say goodbye to it once you leave the first world—this will be lifted away from you and replaced with a wall-jump in the next world, for example.

That said, discarding abilities for new ones keeps the game moving so that it doesn’t become tedious—or at least, it reduces the possibility of becoming bored too quickly if (and when) you find yourself replaying a section. The thing is, since you’re always learning something new, there’s a higher chance of failure. The good news is that there are frequent checkpoints—very, very frequent—so the amount of replay area after a death is quite minimal when compared with other side-scrollers.

Shu starts players with five lives, and once you’ve died five times, the game is over—but you can restart from beginning of a level (your life count also returns to five after you pass each checkpoint). It’s fair, because it adds an extra layer of challenge, but it becomes aggravating—and sometimes downright angry-making—during the chase sequences. Occasionally, you’ll load up a level and be given the instruction to run… and if you’re not fast enough, don’t have those abilities down to perfection, or even just know the level well enough, you’re done for. Literally. One hesitation, one momentary delay, and you’re back to the start. It’s made even more complicated by the fact that some of the collectible items in the game are located in these levels—creating a bit of a logistical nightmare for dedicated completionists.

This is probably the weakest element of the game, and it’s a pretty frustrating one, especially when you come to the climax of the game… where you’ll realize that not only do you have to run like your life depends on it (because it does), but you need to remember how to use all the abilities you encountered along the way in the game and execute them perfectly in order to make it through. You know, those abilities you didn’t get a chance to master or, if you did, you’ve forgotten about them by now because they appeared in level four and you’re on level twenty-one.

Some other frustrations included awkwardly or poorly placed platforms—which in a game that mostly consists of jumping challenges is surprising and somewhat exasperating—and objects that fall out of nowhere, so your death is unavoidable the first time you encounter the area. Again, the frequent checkpoint system lessened the blow of each death somewhat, but it felt unnecessary and, well, cheap.

Extra Features

Time trial mode for each level is unlocked after completion, and there are plenty of ‘Babbies’ (collectible items) to find throughout the game. You don’t really get anything for them, but they’re there if that’s your jam.

Even our cat loves Shu!


Final Thoughts

What Shu lacks in execution, it makes up for in its inventiveness and as a solidly enjoyable gaming experience. It’s a platformer that checks every box, while also adding fun mechanics and impressive, unique level designs. It’s not going to take you that long to finish, either—depending on your experience with platformers, you may be done in only a few hours. Of course, you can extend your play time with time trial runs and collecting bonus items, but if you’re not particularly inclined toward that type of challenge, you may find yourself disappointed in the game’s length.

Does that mean you should pass up Shu? No, not at all. In fact, the majority of our play time here at Nintendo Fire was positive. It was on this reviewer’s list of games to purchase in 2018, and if you have any interest in platformers, I’d encourage you to check it out. At the very least, Shu provides some fresh concepts and visuals in an increasingly saturated “retro-style” platforming market—plus plenty of fun along the way.


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Author: Faith View all posts by
Faith likes games and books and cake and writing and Lara Croft, not necessarily in that order. She also thinks a Skylanders cartoon show is a really, REALLY good idea...

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