One year ago, a 2D puzzle platformer titled The Adventures of Shuggy launched on Xbox Live Arcade. Not Xbox Live Indie Games; this was an Xbox Live Arcade game. Of course, if you had never seen Shuggy on Microsoft's download platform, it would be hard to fault you considering the game was never properly promoted. So what did developer Smudged Cat games do? It released Shuggy on Steam for gamers to finally check out. After playing through the game's 116 levels, I can honestly say you owe it to yourself to do exactly that regardless of whether you're a fan of puzzle platformers or not.
At the start of the game we meet the titular Shuggy, a young vampire who has just inherited his grandfather's mansion. Unfortunately for our long-fanged hero, his new abode is packed with ghosts, monsters, and other creatures. It is up to you to help Shuggy evict those unwanted guests by utilizing the many abilities at your disposal.
Shuggy starts off simple enough, introducing you to some basic mechanics and a few of the easier abilities. It doesn't take long for the challenge to increase, though. Shuggy is all about observing your environments and figuring out the best way to use the powers you're equipped with. One thing remains constant in every level: You need to collect all of the green gems in order to obtain a key. Doing so unlocks new levels for you to play through so you can progress further into Shuggy's mansion.
What makes Shuggy so enthralling is its constantly changing mechanics. The game boasts a lot of different abilities such as time travel and teleportation, but none of them ever feel forced. Almost all of the stages will rely on a single ability, and it is up to you to traverse the many perils in Shuggy's levels by using these abilities, as well as your wits and some patience. This is a tough game, and though it never gets too brutal, you can most certainly expect to die more than a handful of times. Interestingly enough, the game's difficulty never had me begging for mercy. Yes, it challenged me, and it even got me a little frustrated at times, but overall, the level design is so smart that it makes the game really inviting.
As previously mentioned, time travel is the main gameplay feature in a few of Shuggy's levels. You'll be tasked with stepping on a switch to open a locked area with some gems while a clock counts down in the upper right corner of the screen. Once the time expires, a washed out version of Shuggy's past self will appear and repeat your previous actions. As the current Shuggy, it is up to you to run to that locked area so that the past Shuggy can step on the switch and open it up for you. You must repeat this process in levels with multiple switches and doors, but the tricky part is figuring out a route that will help you avoid touching the other Shuggys, because doing so will kill your character and force you to restart. These are some of the most challenging sequences in the game, but clearing them is incredibly rewarding.
In certain stages, Shuggy can flip the actual level. Doing so can be a bit disorienting, and if there are enemies around, you'll have to be alert so that you don't accidentally touch them as you traverse the map you're flipping around. Before you know it, you'll find yourself flipping all over the place and running up walls. Things can get a bit hectic when there are a lot of baddies onscreen, and it is up to you to stay collected, because Shuggy isn't afraid to punish gamers who just rush in.
Because I really don't want to spoil everything that this delightful puzzle platformer has to offer, I'll share one last ability. In certain stages, you'll take turns controlling multiple Shuggys. Because the different versions of the character are placed near different enemies and obstacles, you need to switch between them rapidly using the action button and moving them around to reach different areas, hit switches, and collect gems. This definitely takes some getting used to, and a little trial and error really goes a long way.
Despite the fact that Shuggy features over 100 stages, you don't need to get through all of them to beat the game. That said, the compelling design of every level just begs for you to play them all. To add to the mix, Shuggy features 36 local co-op levels, all of which require two players to band together to clear stages. Co-op mode is a nice addition, and it gives you a little something extra to do after you've beaten the main game.
Despite all of the awesomeness it encompasses, Shuggy isn't a perfect game. The frustration that some of the levels can cause will probably annoy some players, and those who struggle to find solutions to the game's more elaborate puzzles will probably feel lost at times. Additionally, Shuggy isn't a terribly long game, and you'll be able to get through it after just a handful of hours. To be quite honest, though, these are just minor gripes on my part that can easily be written off as nitpicking. Shuggy is a truly worthwhile experience even despite its few miniscule quirks.
One thing I can't complain about is the game's art design. Levels drip with bold color and charming characters, and cutscenes feature a pleasing cartoon comic book aesthetic that's just a sheer joy to look at. The music in the game is also quite adorable, and every theme is sure to get stuck in your head as you play through the levels.
It's a total shame that Shuggy was ignored on Xbox Live and pushed aside at launch. This is a clever little platformer that will provide you with delightfully fiendish puzzles, co-op, great art, and cheery music. If you haven't already played it, go do so right now. Shuggy is a memorable puzzle platforming experience, and one that can appeal to any gamers looking for a solid title to sink a few hours into. Support this game so we can see even more awesome titles from Smudged Cat Games.
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