At first glance, Shuggy doesn’t really look like a vampire. So why, in this ridiculous premise, has our main character recently inherited a mansion haunted by ghosts, ghouls and other undead? Apparently in The Adventures of Shuggy, touching any undead or any other assortment of critter will get Shuggy killed. Why would a vampire be killed by anything other than sunlight or fire, or the stuff you see on TV shows? Most puzzle platformers don’t even have a storyline — let alone a ridiculous one — and I’m not here to analyse vampires, so let’s move on.
InThe Adventures of Shuggy, players are supposed to collect the gems that are spread throughout the level while avoiding the nasties I mentioned earlier. Gathering up all the gems unlocks new levels, and there are five different areas in the mansion each containing about 20-plus levels.
The Adventures of Shuggy incorporates numerous platforming mechanics, some new and some familiar, but ultimately still keeps things fresh. Mechanisms inspired by other games include the different gravity pulls of VVVVVV to the making use of past-selves of Braid. Players can rotate stages, get help from Shuggy’s buddies, or swing their way around using ropes. My favourite element has to be the whimsical little creatures called Shmus, which normally just aimlessly roll around making cute little noises. You have to guide them to cages containing gems, which only the Shmus can release for you to collect.
Despite the many different puzzle and platforming elements, the game never tries to mix and match them into a single level. This is a pity, and not enough of a challenge for hardcore gamers. While I appreciate that Smudged Cat Games tries to keep things simple, there are some repeated stages where that only add on to the difficulty from similar levels. There’s a missed opportunity where the game could teach players how to progress by having the first few levels with only one puzzle, and subsequent ones with a multiple puzzles. While some might call this holding the players’ hand, I believe there’s also a certain kind of satisfaction in successfully recreating lessons acquired beforehand.
Having more than 100 levels seems like a lot. Even though most of them still feel crisp, I know I’d prefer playing 50 levels with two or three mechanisms in them rather than having 100 levels each with only one. It just feels like the quantity has been artificially inflated.
Graphically, The Adventures of Shuggy looks like a typical Adobe Flash game, but with an added touch of cartoon vibrancy. Some of the special visual effects seem to slow the game down and you could do without them without making much of a difference. The idle animation of Shuggy inviting players to interact adds a little charm, but overall I’d like to see Shuggy looking more like a vampire. At the moment, Shuggy looks kind of more like a dirty blue-buggy-eyed purple plastic bag with fangs.
The controls of the game are simple enough. Players use WASD for movement, the space bar for jump, and Enter for the action button. Before every level, there are one or two pop-ups that tell you what the action button is for. Tips and other information are also displayed within the interface. Controls can be a little trippy as movement along stairs feels more like you’re sliding up and down. It can also be hard to control the distance of your jump which can be crucial in a platformer.
The PC version of the game has a few modes not present in the XBLA version. The local co-op mode still remains and provides 36 extra cooperative stages. The simple controls and one dimensional levels are a good and a bad thing. Maybe it’s just me, but after playing Braid I now expect every puzzle platformer to be mind-bendingly difficult. I suspect more hardcore gamers will agree with me, while more casual players will be more appreciative of the simplistic and elegant puzzles of The Adventures of Shuggy.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose
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