Ever since the dawn of Super Meat Boy tough-as-nails platforming games have earned a genre all their own. Many call it the massacore genre, but I prefer the moniker splatformer that I’ve heard used around. Games that require fast reflexes and precise jumps to get to the goal while a host of dangerous obstacles hope to send you back to the start with even the slightest misstep. Shio is a game that hopes to stand on the shoulders of these giants, even explaining in its Steam description, that if you like Super Meat Boy you will like Shio. It’s a big and bold claim that I don’t think Shio really earns.
Shio has all the trappings of a splatformer game. You can only move, jump, and then flick out a light around you that, if you connect with a floating lantern in the game, will bounce you up for another jump. You must string together these bounces as you traverse the level while avoiding the various hazards that would send you back to the last checkpoint with the slightest misstep. The game is well check-pointed so you seldom lose much ground, and it makes the sections of the game feel like short contained levels, much like you would find in Super Meat Boy. Mechanically, I can see the comparison being made between these two games, but there is something missing in Shio.
While Shio lands a fairly solid core game feel with it’s juggling mechanic for movement, it tries to reach for more with a somewhat story tacked on at the edges. This could have worked out well. Celeste has shown, mixing a strong story narrative with this difficult platforming genre can work out really well. However the bulk of the story is hidden away in collectibles that you have to find hidden throughout the world. These usually require going out of your way to uncover a story that, as I unlocked more and more, I found entirely lackluster and throw-away. On top of that there were more than one occasion I ran into typos in the text, and passages of text that split every word on the end of a line with a hyphen. If it was only a word or two it wouldn’t have been as catching, but it was several words through a fairly small block of text.
More confusing to the story is that there are at least two sources of this unfolding lore in the world, as well as some interjections by a trash-obsessed old man who keeps spouting out things to you between platforming sections in the levels. The whole story started to become so disjointed so quickly that I simply gave up looking for the collectibles and focused on the platforming instead. There was no incentive whatsoever to follow through with whatever story was trying to be conveyed. The game seemed to want to do what it could to hide away bits of lore from me unless I wanted to heap extra challenge on myself to find them.
The other problem with Shio, outside of a lackluster story wrapper, is that the game just doesn’t have enough charm or style to keep me into the challenge at hand. Super Meat Boy isn’t just a difficult platforming game. Celeste isn’t just a difficult platforming game. No Time To Explain isn’t just a difficult platforming game. Each of these games brings a level of charm or style. Super Meat Boy is on a quest to save his girlfriend Bandage Girl from the evil Dr. Fetus who kidnapped her. Even No Time To Explain interjects the bizarre and weird into a mostly nonsensical story as you find yourself running into progressively weirder scenes between levels. These are games that don’t lean heavily on story, but still craft enough of a world and style that it sticks with you.
The lackluster story could easily be forgivable, lack of charm or not, if the game felt satisfying to do well. The movement mechanics are fine, but I often found myself frustrated less with the controls, and more with the lack of direction on how to get from point A to point B. When you come to a section you can stop and review a picture of what the section looks like. In a game like Super Meat Boy seeing the whole level, or at least a large portion of it, is a big aspect of planning your route through. However the pictures you get to view, and the close-in camera perspective, don’t do enough in giving you a sense of how the obstacles move, or what timing is like until you are in the moment doing it. More often then not this means you will have to fail a section of a level a few times just to know how it functions. You get the general idea of where the lanterns are at first, but have to trial and error your way through it. A pulled back camera could aid in this, but given the length of some of the sections of the course, and the shape of them, it would be hard to show all of what you may want to see.
Shio takes a simple platforming concept with a solid system for bouncing off lanterns and avoiding obstacles, and does little with it in a way that makes it memorable. After playing for a number of hours the things I can most easily tell you is that you bounce off lanterns to avoid objects, which is kind of fun, and some guy keeps telling you about taking out the trash, which is kinda weird. Outside of that I think if you really want a memorable splatforming experience, check out Super Meat Boy or Celeste.
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Lantern Bouncing movement feels good
Hard to judge level layout until you're in it
Lore hidden away in the levels with little incentive to find it