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Grown men can play this game, too

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    Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    Grown men can play this game, too

    Having never played a Shantae title before picking up The Pirate’s Curse on sale on the Playstation Store, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard that the original game was a cult favorite, but I never owned a Game Boy to play it on, and the DS sequel escaped my notice. Then the titles started getting releases on Playstation systems and my interest was piqued. Critics seemed to love the series. Judging a book by its cover though, I deemed the games beneath me. It’s too colorful, too bubbly, and the main character whips enemies with her hair. Clearly this game is meant for pre-teen girls, not grown men, right?

    Wrong. The critics were right. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse offers a very fun, kind of funny, and yes very colorful experience with some surprisingly deep metroid-vania style gameplay. The game runs about $20 on the Playstation Store, but I was able to nab it during a Buy One, Get One Free sale. So for the money I spent, the twenty-or-so hours I subsequently played it makes it well worth the price. But let’s take a more detailed look and see if we can’t sort some of this out.

    Story: 3.5 / 5

    It’s a platformer, guys. They’re not exactly known for their thrilling story-lines. That said, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was a pleasant surprise in the writing department, especially compared to its contemporaries. In this game Shantae teams up with her once-rival Risky Boots. I guess there’s a backstory there, but not having played the previous games I was left a little in the dark. It didn’t seem to matter much, though. Basically the bad-guy wants to do bad things and it’s up to us to stop him. Along the way we meet varied and quirky characters who say funny things and ask us to complete strange tasks for them. Really strange tasks; at one point I had to get a dragon-thing to smell some ham so he would start drooling enough to fill a pool to give some scantily-clad co-eds a reason to get into their bikinis so that their pure co-ed skin would reflect enough light to shine on an emblem and open a path to move forward. Who the heck came up with that? It was enough of a departure from the typical "help me save so-and-so from this evil thing" to keep me plenty entertained throughout.

    Graphics: 3 / 5

    Given that this title was originally designed for the 3DS system, it’s not exactly stretching my PS4 to its graphical limits. The sprites feature the retro-inspired 8-bit style so popular in digital games these days. The worlds are well designed and interesting enough to look at, and pretty fresh given the saturation of standardized platformer levels. Still, you will find the usual lava and ice and forest levels here. The animation is very well done, though. Shantae herself is very cute in the way she bounces around and, yes, whips her hair. Each move she gains is accompanied by a fun new animation of her pulling out and firing a pistol or grabbing a huge pirate hat to float around with. I’m particularly fond of the slightly terrified look on her face when she’s using a cannon as a means to double-jump. For a full-HD experience you’d have to opt for this game’s sequel Half-Genie Hero, but for what it is The Pirate’s Curse stands up quite well.

    Gameplay: 4.5 / 5

    There’s nothing world-shattering here, but Shantae and the Pirates Curse takes the well-established metroid-vania formula and hones it to sharp dagger of fun. The controls are very precise and when you die you generally won’t have anyone to blame but yourself. Of course you will continually find new abilities that will unlock areas of previous levels, and there’s plenty of collectibles that will give you reason to want to do so. You can upgrade your health and all your attacks. Overall it’s a fairly easy game, but the final dungeon offers some very challenging platforming, and getting all of the game’s trophies (which I haven’t done and probably will not) will probably require multiple playthroughs and some skill. I did get a little annoyed at the constantly respawning enemies, and a few enemies seemed to take away unfairly sized chunks of health (if I get killed by one more of those stinking wolves in the ice level…).

    Music and Sound: 4.5 / 5

    I’m not sure who composed this game, but they’ve done a pretty good job here. If you’ve read any of my other reviews you’ll get an idea of how game music resonates with me, and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is no slouch in that department. If you’re playing this game and the Scuttle Town theme doesn’t get stuck in your head, there’s something wrong with you. Every world has its own set of themes, but they all fit under a cohesive umbrella of slightly middle-eastern belly dancing fare. Again, it’s nothing world shattering, but it fits the game very well.

    Voice work is fairly minimal. During a long sequence of dialog you get a handful of utterances from Shantae. It is a fairly typical practice in platformers, but that doesn’t make it any better. If I hear Shantae groan "Rissskyyyy!" one more time I’m going to plug my ears.

    Conclusion: 4 / 5

    I purchased Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse more-or-less on whim. As mentioned, it was part of a Buy One Get One Free sale. This was the game I got for free. What I really wanted was The Escapists: The Walking Dead, but after a few weeks I have played that game for about a hour and Shantae for about twenty hours. The fun styling and gameplay really make this game a joy for anyone who will give it a chance. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too. Even if you are a grown man like me.




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