Cyber Shadow is an indie side-scroller developed by Mechanical Head Studios, which is based in Finland. The game was published in early 2021 by Yacht Club Games, which developed the Shovel Knight series.
The game’s protagonist is a ninja named Shadow, who comes equipped with some cybernetic enhancements. The story reveals that a mysterious villain known as Dr. Progen has taken over the world and unleashed an army of synthetic warriors to do his bidding.
Shadow is the only surviving member of his clan and you are promptly tasked with uncovering what happened to your family and friends in the technological hellscape of Mekacity. Without spoiling too much, you will uncover the fate of your clan at the hands of Dr. Progen and his autonomous army.
The story is very minimal in this title, with plot points being delivered through in-game dialogue as well as simplistic cutscenes. Despite the narrative being rather light, it is fitting for this homage to classic 8-bit titles.
In terms of gameplay, you will guide Shadow through Mekacity with dynamic dashes and double jumps, slicing and dicing enemies along the way. As you progress through the game, you will rescue your lost clan members, with each one granting you new Ninjutsu abilities to enhance your movement or combat. At one point, we gained the use of shuriken to pick off foes from afar which changed the flow of fights going forward. It always feels satisfying to advance your abilities, and mastering the growing power of Shadow was a delight!
Controls felt tight in both the platforming and combat, which keeps you constantly on the move, especially in the boss fights, of which there are over a dozen of!
These bosses were wildly creative and our personal highlight of the game, forcing you to take a different approach in order to overcome them. At times, this title was extremely difficult with some sections bordering on frustrating due to the sparse placement of checkpoints. Of course, games of old were arguably more challenging than they are today but these levels still are tough, and it still feels satisfying to progress through them!
Graphically, Cyber Shadow does have that 8-bit art style which looks satisfyingly retro while still managing to include great depth in its level design, set pieces and backgrounds. The cutscenes look particularly great, showcasing some brilliant character design.
There are 11 levels present in the game which vary greatly from industrial facilities, laboratories, skyscrapers and everything in between. These missions are decidedly short and we wished that some of them were a little more extensive. Once you gain the dash and sprint abilities, we found that you can absolutely blast through levels, skipping much of the combat outside of key moments or bosses.
The sound design deserves a mention, since the retro effects for attacks, impacts and different surfaces showed a tremendous attention to detail from Mechanical Head Studios! The soundtrack is a perfect throwback to the 8-bit era and it perfectly complements the high-octane levels throughout the roughly 8-hour experience. Each one of these levels has its own score, with some levels having multiple unique songs to accompany the mood that the areas are trying to evoke.
We loved the time we spent with Cyber Shadow, a game which successfully replicates the classic 8-bit platformer with nostalgic effect! The art style and sound design are particularly good, giving Mekacity and its 11 distinct locations some much needed personality. The sheer variety of enemies, abilities and bosses kept the game feeling fresh, despite the story leaving a lot to be desired.
If you are a fan of these classic platformers, Cyber Shadow is definitely for you but the game will fail to appeal to a wider audience due to a weak plot, distant checkpoints and lack of additional modes.
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