By Zatheera, 10 May 2016
I had the opportunity to review “Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse” which was both published and developed by WayForward Technologies. It’s a platform game, which reminds most people of Metroid and Castlevania, but brought me back to the days of playing Kid Icarus on the classic Nintendo during my childhood (I may have given my age away with that reference…). If it weren’t for the smoothly drawn scantily clad anime style character images during conversations, it would have fully locked me into nostalgia mode.
Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.
The main character is Shantae, an ex-genie that still seems to have an attachment to her old belly dancing uniform. Her primary weapon is her hair. Yes, you read me right, her hair. I’m not going to lie, Willow Smith’s “Whip Your Hair” song was triggered in my mind multiple times while playing.
I’d joke that I can only imagine the amount of money she spends on shampoo and conditioner to clean her hair after combat, but at least I know where she gets it from because you upgrade her hair attack strength and speed by buying better hair products from a store back in Scuttle Town.
You start the game with the Shantae being startled awake because the Ammo Baron is attacking Scuttle Town. It turns out that the mayor had sold the town for a bunch of chocolates, which he definitely doesn’t need any more of. Clearly, even in this animated world, people elect complete morons into positions of political power, yay.
As to why the Baron felt like destroying something he purchased instead of slowly converting it to suit his needs, I have no idea. He definitely isn’t a financial guru or proper property investor, that’s for sure.
I’ve got to say that whoever is selling push up bra’s and teaching P90x classes in Scuttle Town is making a fortune. It seems every woman is wearing tiny tops while hoisting their girls up to the skies with magical strapless bras. They’re all tiny waists, big breasts, perky butts and always shown in poses where they are pushing out all their lovely lady lumps. Excited about something? Stretch out your arms and shove out your chest. Sad about something? Bend over at the hips and give us some cleavage.
Yeah, I see what you’re doing over there little anime artist, I see it. The oiled up sheen on them really gives that whole “aiming for max sex appeal” factor away pretty quickly. Heck, even Shantae’s idle stance involves a lot of bouncing back and forth. That has to be exhausting!
I hadn’t played the first Shantae game “Shantae: Risky’s Revenge”, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Which may have been why I initially raised my brow at Shantae’s outfit, but those feelings quickly went away as I played and found that the game mocks itself for how the women dress like dancers -ahem- “Entertainers”. I am primarily a PC gamer that has been spoiled with open world games in the past few years, so when I was asked to review a platform game on my PS4-which was collecting dust in my living room- I was expecting to feel shackled. Heck, I even dragged my PS4 to my office and set it up on my second monitor just so I could be closer to my lifeline…I mean my PC. But it didn’t feel that way at all, the characters were funny, I was having a blast and before I knew it I’d cleared a few islands while cheering to myself “I whip my hair back n’ forth, I whip my hair back n’ forth.”
I had set up my PS4 in my office fully expecting to just get a couple hours playtime in before taking a break and instead I caught myself having played nearly 8 hours straight. The only reason I stopped was because I had to go to sleep like a responsible adult. I was actually enjoying using the controls instead of feeling encumbered by them and I didn’t even wish once for my PC controls. They controls were simple and intuitive, it felt incredibly smooth to play.
There were numerous times my significant other turned wondering why I was yelping or laughing, only to realize I was still playing Shantae and either in some intense gauntlet or giggling at some line like “Straight from my hair to his derriere!” and “No one weaponizes the elderly on my watch!”.
Now the game does implement two of my pet peeves, save points and instant water deaths. To their credit, the save points are positioned in fairly reasonable spots, so it didn’t bother me too much. I did wonder how this old man in a green robe got to a lot of the locations unharmed, but so long as he let me save, I wasn’t going to ask him any questions. There’s also a save point back in town that you can always go back to if you want to save after completing an Island, so don’t forget to go back to Scuttle Town and do your thing.
There are various reasons to head back to Scuttle Town, such as restocking, upgrading your gear and sometimes getting quest items from the NPCs that you’ll need to further progress in the dungeons. In regards to the instant aquatic deaths that make jumping across water tricky, the game has the camera follow the character quite well, so once you get the hang of things it’s fairly simple, which redeemed them in my eyes. My irritation towards this mechanic may be because of another game I had reviewed which left a bitter taste in my mouth. So I shouldn’t hold it against Shantae. Though you do have to wonder how someone that lives on an Island doesn’t know how to swim.
There are various puzzles to solve in the game, most of them are pretty basic, but some are a bit more difficult such as time-based puzzles that also require you to jump around a bit. Nothing so far has made me want to pull my hair out, though, so if puzzles aren’t your thing, don’t worry about it, they aren’t the main bread and butter of the game.
I’m a person that appreciates the little things video game creators do. Like the details that went into Shantae’s combat moves, abilities and the fact that her appearance reflects how much damage she’s taken. She goes from tough Shantae to her hair being a mess, clothes torn and clutching an arm when damaged, clearly struggling with fighting on. I love the fact that the villagers actually work to rebuild the town that had been attacked at the start of the game, which is a detail you often find overlooked in video games “Our hometown is wrecked? Naaah, it’s fine, we’ll just stand here in debris for the rest of our lives or move on. It’s not like there’s a point in rebuilding. Right?”
All in all, this game was well done. The tongue in cheek humour that is apparent even when it came to the name of the islands. Each of those islands has their own unique feel which helped alleviate any sense of tediousness while constantly testing how far you can go before Shantae gets whiplash. I’m fairly certain her chipper disposition and naivety comes from some minor brain damage from her fighting style, but I digress.
If you want to play something fun and lighthearted, I say give this game a go. At full price for approximately $21.99 Canadian. If you really enjoy the game -which I’m sure you will- you can also grab Risky’s Revenge for $10.99. It’s available on various platforms such as the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Windows), and FireTV. I tested it on the PS4 and admittedly learned for the first time how to post PS4 screenshots to my twitter while doing this review, so I apologize for the “Cannot Display” message in my screenshots -cough-. Hey, I’m a PC gamer!!! Give me some slack…though if I keep getting fun games like this, who knows.
Happy gaming, folks!