DEVELOPER: Wayforward
PUBLISHER: Wayforward
EXPECT TO PAY: $28 AUD (standard edn); $43 AUD (Ultimate edn)
AVAILABLE VIA: STEAM, Humble Store, and GoG

If I had to use one word to sum-up the feel of Shantae ½ Genie Hero, then it would be joy. The game simply gives off a vibe of irrepressible fun and cheerfulness which it’s hard not to get caught up in: the music is energetic and catchy, the visuals are vibrant and cartoon-y, and a fun sense of humour permeates the game. It’s hard not to laugh when you encounter the kid who is literally being paid chicken feed, the flying uniforms made from magic carpets (the M.C.U. – or Magic Carpet Uniform for Marvel fans) or the villain obsessed with his merchandising deals. Light-hearted and fun, this is a game which makes itself easy for to enjoy.

This is not to say that the game itself is easy. A 2D platformer (complete with standard elements such as moving platforms, traps and secret areas), the levels are well designed and varied, always providing an interesting challenge, whether you’re a novice gamer or not. Something which is especially important as you’ll find yourself visiting the same location several-times over. As the game progresses, Shantae acquires more and more magic powers, which allow her to transform into quite a variety of forms with new abilities.

The monkey-form, for example, can cling to walls and lets you jump huge distances, whilst the mermaid-form lets you swim underwater but won’t let you fit into the tight areas that the crab-form allows. Each form you unlock (and their various upgrades) opens up more of each level for you to explore. Whilst in many games it often feels like a chore to backtrack through a level in order to get a particular piece of equipment or grab a collectible item (hint, there is an actual game-play benefit if you do go to the effort of grabbing the collectibles), in Shantae ½ Genie Hero this is never the case.

The fourth game in the Shantae series and the first to use high-definition graphics (rather than the pixel graphics of the previous entries in the series), Shantae ½ Genie Hero shows a high level of polish, and Wayforward clearly know just what is needed to keep people entertained – beyond tight controls and good level design of course. The eccentric cast of characters (including Shantae’s friends and the over-the-top villains), humorous dialogue and the character of Shantae herself – who exudes enthusiasm and cheerfully bops along to the music whenever you’re not giving a command – make even the simplest of tasks fun. Also, if you ever get lost, forget what you’re trying to do, or simply need a hint, simply visit the local bathhouse and ask for a clue to point you in the right direction.

The Ultimate edition of Shante ½ Genie Hero also comes with all the extra content Wayforward built for the game. So, once you’ve finished the main story, you can dive into number of additional challenges and game modes. One, for example, sees Shantae donning a ninja outfit, which grants her an exaggerated ‘ninja-run’, sword and throwing stars, whilst another sees you playing as Shantaes friends, or even the main villain, the pirate Risky Boots. While these take place in largely familiar levels, there are enough twists to the mechanics, dialogue and music to keep them interesting and challenging. (Just try defeating the boss-fights while swapping between three different characters and abilities!).

Suitable for kids of 6-60+, Shantae ½ Genie Hero is a delight to play and extremely easy to recommend. ■

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