The Adventures of Shuggy
developed by Smudged Cat Games
Games like The Adventures of Shuggy make me smile. It’s a platformer with puzzle elements, but first and foremost, it’s a platformer. This is the game that I grew up on, the type of game that many gamers my age grew up on. It’s kind of fitting that Shuggy reminds me of past arcade style platformers, because it takes every single element that was great about them, then twists those elements to introduce newer gameplay mechanics. Some similar elements are apparent in other recent indie games such as VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, and Dustforce. All of which have paid homage to the true classics of video game platformer history. They’re all great games, but for the most part they stick with one or maybe two unique gameplay mechanics.
The Adventures of Shuggy is different, and so much more unique. It takes about a dozen gameplay mechanics, combines those various mechanics to form new ones, implements them one at a time per level, and then bends the standard action platformer rules without breaking them. What you’re left with in the end is a highly polished, frantically fun, and charming little game. It’s kind of funny in a way, since The Adventures of Shuggy also looks like a cute game for kids. Don’t be fooled though, this platformer is as challenging as it is charming.
The Protagonist, Shuggy, is a young(?) vampire who has recently inherited a haunted mansion. Unfortunately, Shuggy can’t properly inhabit the place until he clears each and every room of the evil that has been haunting it. And so, Shuggy’s adventure begins. Yes it’s a paper thin story, and that’s quite alright since most of the old arcade style platformers often never even had a story anyway. Here, we get a full-blown comic book style set of cutscenes that progress the story every time all of the rooms within a major hallway have been cleared of evil. The story and cutscenes add a little extra flavor to the fun, and for those who just want to get down to the nitty-gritty gameplay, these scenes are entirely skippable.
The Adventures of Shuggy contains over 100+ levels. The levels themselves are relatively short, some lasting about 30 seconds near the beginning at least. The time required to finish a level increases significantly before you know it though. The levels gradually become more challenging and each one introduces a new mechanic or a new way to use an existing mechanic. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a fully functioning, sometimes frantic, local co-op mode. The levels are a little bit different in co-op mode in that both players will need to work together if they want to finish each of the co-operative levels. This gives Shuggy an added layer of depth and also adds to the existing challenge.
With that said the object of the game, in almost every level, is to collect all of the gems within each level. There is also a leaderboard for every single level in the game. These leaderboards are based on time, so if you plan on inching your way up the leaderboard ladder you need to finish the levels as quickly as possible. Some levels are easier than others, but most offer more than one solution to achieving a better time.
Thankfully, the controls in The Adventures of Shuggy are tight and responsive. This is important because the unique actions you’ll use in this platformer demand timing, skill, precision, quick reflexes, practice, and sometimes a teensy bit of luck. These things are crucial because you’ll be getting Shuggy to perform actions such rotating an entire room, speeding up time, shrinking, growing, flying, teleporting, swinging, and even the occasional boss fight, to name but a few. You’ll even need to coerce groups of tiny, cute, cuddly, and sometimes annoying little creatures called “smhu” into moving to different locations within a level, almost like a heard of lemmings.
The level design is ingenious and quite crafty at times. On more than a couple of occasions I was forced to scratch my head and rethink my next move. It does get more and more challenging as you progress, but I never felt really frustrated or annoyed to the point where I wanted to quit. I mostly enjoyed finishing the levels and then going back to beat my score. Once I was able to beat my own score, I wanted to go back to most levels and work my way up the leaderboards. It’s incredibly addicting and extremely entertaining, especially when you start realizing you’re getting better with time and the more you try. Some levels will require multiple attempts, but since you respawn quickly and you have unlimited lives, you know it’s only a matter of time before you figure out how to finish a level.
The graphics, sound fx, and music are very well done. This is a 2D platformer that is colorful, shiny, and detailed. Shuggy shows a lot of polish on all fronts. The cute and cartoon-y graphics are misleading but they fit the quirky character and charm of the setting and gameplay. Even the music and sound fx are colorful and fun. They suit the gameplay without any problem of becoming distracting or annoying in any way.
The Adventures of Shuggy offers lot of gameplay and replay value in a bite-sized package. If you love a good platformer, especially a platformer with some intelligent and imaginative puzzle elements, then you should not hesitate to buy Shuggy. Many of the elements and mechanics introduced left me thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!”. There’s a retro feel to the gameplay, but the level design and unique actions within those levels, feel much more like a reboot within its genre and it also includes a slickness about it with some revamped style and a new approach to a favorite kind of formula. One thing’s for certain, Shuggy is both refreshing and unique.