Shu contains one of the most adorable premises I’ve seen in some time. Darkness is taking over your land, has consumed your chieftain, and will soon destroy the entire world if you don’t stop it with an ancient artifact. Wait; did I mention that the entire cast is basically bird people, or that they look amazingly cute? No, I should have lead with that.
The game’s flow is relatively straightforward, coupled with a level-based linear delivery system. You enter one of the five themed worlds, each of which contains several stages, and race from start to finish. Most of the environments are chilled out a bit and don’t have a timer per se (just collectibles), and some are literal races for your life as the darkness constantly encroaches your screentime. While the titular protagonist has the ability to jump and glide, he’ll need a little help from his friends for the rest. At set intervals, Shu will meet up with different members of his village and gain access to new abilities like double jumps and charge attacks, which trigger contextual actions within the confines of that stage.
For example, one level might focus on the former mechanic, and another, the latter, but very rarely do they fall in tandem. This mostly works out in Shu‘s favor, as it allows each stage to play to its own strength and differentiate it from the pack. On the flipside, there’s only one real instance where everything meshes well together, as the last stage allows you to really shine with everything you’ve picked up.
I’m hesitant to call each stage an extended tutorial as they’re each their own complete experiences in their own right, but I do wish there was some sort of elongated endgame to last people who aren’t into Donkey Kong 64-esque collectathons. Each stage has its own set of baby chickens to rescue, which is manageable enough, but there’s also a secondary goal akin to coins in butterflies. Some levels have over 400 to collect, which can get overwhelming.
Still, you can get at least a few hours out of Shu and the pacing never really dips, which is more than I can say for a lot of other downloadables out there.