Since it was first announced in 2019, many gamers have been eager to play the 2D pixel platformer Cyber Shadow. The game is developed by Mechanical Head Games, headed by Aarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker. After working on this passion project for quite some time, Hunziker teamed up with Yacht Club Games, developers of the Shovel Knight series, to help bring this game to audiences on multiple platforms.
To some gamers, Cyber Shadow already resembles Ninja Gaiden, and other Metroidvania-type games. The developers were certainly inspired by many classic action platformers and created an authentic retro-styled game with some modern touches. In this iteration, players control the ninja Shadow, with his robot companion, L-Gion, through a world overtaken by the evil Dr. Progen. Players battle Dr. Progen’s synthetic army as they try to save Shadow’s clan and earn different power-ups along the way.
With the game releasing tomorrow, critics are already offering up their opinions on Cyber Shadow. Is the game difficult just for the sake of difficulty? Does Cyber Shadow live up to its predecessors? Here is what critics have to say:
Game Rant (Greysun Morales)
“Cyber Shadow is not a game for the faint of heart. Depending on the player’s experience with games like this, death will come often. For example, someone dying about 400 times in a single playthrough is very much possible in this game, and it will probably happen to many players. Enemies will appear all over the screen, with them shooting projectiles at players while the floor is electrified and spikes are on the walls. Cyber Shadow puts players into some sticky situations, but it never feels impossible.“
“Cyber Shadow is a wonderful merging of old-school aesthetic and modern design sensibilities, much like Shovel Knight was back in 2014. Sure, its story is forgettable and some of its checkpoint placements are far enough apart to make me hesitant to apply a “tough but fair” label without caveats, but the way it evolves and changes over the course of its seven to eight hour campaign thanks to excellent level, enemy, and progression design is exemplary. Combine that with what’s an early contender for best soundtrack of 2021, and it’s easy to see Cyber Shadow as the start of something great for both Mechanical Head Studios and Yacht Club Games.“
Score: 8/10 (Great)
“After beating the game in just over 12 hours with still plenty more to explore and achieve, I can happily say that Cyber Shadow has done a stellar job at combining forces that represented the 8-bit era. The feel of the gameplay, the look and style of the visuals, the absurd plot and the wonderful soundtrack contributions of Enrique Martin and Jake Kaufman really does set the mood nicely…It’s no wonder why Yacht Club Games were so keen to have their name strapped to it.“
“I think what stands out most, though, is Cyber Shadow’s accessibility. I often steer clear of these retro platformers because they wear their difficulty like a badge of honor. This limits the playability of a game to anyone other than those looking for a hard experience. It is, of course, fine if that’s your thing, but with ninja platforming action having the appeal that it does, I’m glad that this game is challenging without being overly difficult. Cyber Shadow feels like a game for everyone, from hardened 8-bit veteran to genre newcomers.“
“When playing through it though, I sometimes felt the pang of fatigue in some sections of the game. Not every chapter is a winner, as a few repeat concepts established in earlier portions or don’t nail them as well as others…Cyber Shadow is a bit disjointed at times, but right when it’s chugging, it begins to crescendo and pick back up again. Despite the modern design concessions (which are within reason and don’t betray the core of the game) it’s not going to appeal to everyone, and that’s OK.“
“Arguably some of Cyber Shadow’s most significant challenges come in its instant death pitfalls. Lava, spikes, and other instakills cover levels. They may seem deceptively avoidable but add in noticeable kickback when hit by enemies, making platforming a lot more precarious…If you are up for a humblingly difficult but intensely fun 2D side scroller Cyber Shadow just maybe the challenge you’re looking for.“
“Additionally, the Cyber Shadow soundtrack might be one of the game’s greatest strengths, an infectious sequence of moody and dramatic chiptune loops that inspire players through the toughest encounters and boss retries. Anyone with a penchant for old-school 2D action, razor-sharp platforming, and, cyberninjas in general will adore Cyber Shadow. It’s more self-serious than The Messenger but meets its devotion to the classics of yesteryear and aspiration to best them.“
“Cyber Shadow is derivative, yes, but it’s derivative in the best way possible. It not only hearkens back to many aspects of classic titles, but improves on them with better gameplay and carefully-considered modern-day sensibilities. Not only is Cyber Shadow a truly impressive accomplishment, but also quite possibly one of the best games I’ve ever played. Up until the very, very end, at least.“
“There’s a fine line between challenging games and frustrating ones, especially when you’re trying to pay homage to games that were released three decades ago. But with Cyber Shadow, Mechanical Head Games proves that with a few smart, modern twists, it’s possible to make a retro-style platformer with all the difficulty of the past, and few of the frustrations.“
With these reviews pulled here, it’s safe to say that Cyber Shadow has been well-received overall. While opinions differ on just how fair the difficulty can be at times, all have noted that the game’s action has a good feel in general. Interestingly enough, multiple reviewers noted that the boss battles aren’t as fun as fighting regular enemies. Either way, the game looks to be a clean, modern take on classic platforming tropes. The soundtrack is certainly a standout, so it might not be a surprise to see Cyber Shadow’s composer, Enrique Martin, nominated for Best Score and Music at The Game Awards.
Cyber Shadow is currently sitting at an 83 on Metacritic for the PC version, and has similar scores for other platforms. As more reviews come in after the game’s release, it will be interesting to see if the game’s reception drastically changes. At the least, the wait is almost over for fans who have been eyeing this game for a while. While the game might not satisfy every player, it looks like many people already think that Cyber Shadow is way more than just a Ninja Gaiden clone.
Cyber Shadow releases on January 26, 2021, for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.