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REVIEW: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

When you support a Kickstarter the usual rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t get your hopes up. Often times Kickstarter projects, even ones that far exceed their funding goals, don’t come to fruition due to any number of development issues. It’s good to go into them hoping for the best, but being cautiously optimistic. That said, it’s often a solid bet when an established developer goes to crowdfunding to find financing to develop and self publish a project. These developers know the realistic timelines, challenges, and goals needed to be set to see a project through from dream to reality.

WayForward took to Kickstarter to fund their dream of their first high definition title in their Shantae series. Starting off in the humble beginnings of the Game Boy Color, Wayforward moved on to make sequels for DSiWare and later the Nintendo 3DS eShop. They had also produced and released multiple other digital titles and were even the developers behind several licensed titles, so they definitely had the chops to pull off a great game. And what a great game they did pull off.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a colourful, imaginative, and all around fun game to play.

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Shantae is roused from a deep sleep, suddenly alert. She plunges into the moonlit forest in search of answers. In nearby Scuttle Town she discovers a mysterious trapdoor, and beyond that, a luminous subterranean cavern. A familiar voice calls out, drawing Shantae to a beautiful fountain. Touching its waters she is immediately spirited away to the fabled Genie Realm. At her feet a magical seal swells as some powerful evil seeks escape. The chamber trembles with a deep, bellowing roar and everything goes white. Shantae sits upright, back in her bed. Was it just a dream? Or a vision of things to come?

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero feels somewhat like a Metroidvania game, but with a lot more colour, humour, and character. The environments in the game, all of them, are beautifully designed and animated. There is true depth and movement to all of the environments, which look glorious. They give the illusion that you can move into the background or towards the screen with the depth they display though the game is a true 2D sidescroller.

In the classic style you move your character to the right and left and you can also travel up the screen. Like a normal platformer you can scale up the screen and over items by jumping and climbing. The main mechanic which you use to attack your enemies is a quick flick of the hair, which does a base amount of damage. As you progress through the game, collecting gems for money, you can upgrade the power of these attacks as well as the speed at which you can dish them out. Playing through levels a few times can help you earn enough coin to power yourself up pretty quickly, which makes some of the later levels and bosses easier.

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Replaying levels is essential to the game.

Unlike some games in the genre the game isn’t that big. There aren’t hundreds of screens to go through and the game is limited to just a handful of levels. With that being the case you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring the levels, which becomes a necessity as you also discover new abilities.

In Shantae: Half-Genie Hero you will discover new abilities which transform Shantae. She is a genie after all. These abilities range from being able to swim, fly, bash through obstacles, and more. Each ability allows you to get into new parts of each level which was previously inaccessible, which usually hide a few goodies.

None of the enemies or bosses are incredibly hard, though some of them do pose a challenge. The level design is enough of a challenge, but doesn’t have some of the insanely tough platform jumping that some games have. As well, since you have to invariably traverse though multiple levels on multiple occasions, once you unlock the ability to fly the difficulty of some levels falls off. This is great when you’ve played through a level a dozen or more times.

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But while you will go through the levels a few times they don’t get boring.

Coupled with the great look and style of the game, and the spot on platforming controls, the soundtrack of the game is also top notch. The composers have done a great job filling the world with peppy, energetic, and addictive music.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero doesn’t really have a downside. The game may be a little bit on the short side, but when you’re someone who likes to reply levels a lot and enjoys searching for hidden secrets it’s not an issue at all. If it had featured full voice-overs this game would have had the look and feel of playing a Saturday morning cartoon. It looks amazing, plays great, and is lots of fun!

Gameplay 10
Graphics 10
Sound 10
Overall 10