“Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
It’s a saying that quite appropriately sums up my thoughts on Shing! a new side-scrolling beat ’em up developed by Mass Creation. You see, it has a lot of things going for it, but the one thing that makes it stand out from others in the genre is also the thing that possibly detracts from it the most.
In Shing!, you take control of four ninjas on a quest to recover something called the Starseed. It’s been stolen by Yokai (demons to you and me), and as a result, the land is in turmoil. Cue an adventure that will have you travelling a great distance, fighting all manner of freakish enemies along the way. Though it’s not a journey you have to make alone – local co-op is available, and it’s recommended if you want to get the best out of Shing!
The four characters available to you in Shing! each have their own distinct look but pretty much play the same. They can jump, perform a knockback attack to give themselves some space, dodge, and block. They can also attack, of course, but that’s done a bit differently in Shing!; you won’t find yourself hammering the face buttons – instead, you’ll be making gestures with the right analogue stick.
Tap the right analogue stick in the direction of an enemy numerous times and you’ll perform a simple combo. Move it up and you’ll launch enemies up into the air, where you can continue your onslaught before coming back down to earth. There are many options available, with various movements producing different results, and it makes the game’s combat feel fresh and dynamic. But it also makes Shing! somewhat punishing to play.
Many of its levels are rather long and filled with many enemies, so your thumb can soon begin to feel the effects of all that right analogue stick-flicking. You may get to a point where you want to continue playing, but you just can’t take it anymore. As good as the combat system is, it can sometimes be finicky as well. You’ll encounter small enemies that you need to angle your attacks downwards for, and also some that have armour, forcing you to attack low or high – performing such attacks with precision in the middle of a melee isn’t always easy.
On the whole though, things generally work well, making Shing! quite the enjoyable side-scrolling beat ’em up. It helps that there are a handful of other gameplay quirks to keep the action interesting, such as orbs that are dropped by enemies, each giving you a special effect for a short while. You’ll also discover the odd puzzle on your adventure, as well as challenges and places to rest for a short time while you discover more about each member of the team.
There’s the fact that it looks pretty nice, too, and it has both a decent soundtrack and voice acting. Throughout the seven-or-so hour adventure its main campaign offers, you’ll look forward to story scenes as they’re quite funny, and often capture the game looking at its best. And those truly enraptured by its gameplay will return to complete all challenges and unlock all of the available skins for each fighter. There are also multiple difficulty levels to go at, and online leaderboards for some competition.
Had each character not felt so alike, and if the game’s combat system wasn’t quite so punishing on your thumb during extended bouts of play, Shing! could have been something quite special. As it is though, it’s still a good game, and one that fans of side-scrolling beat ’em ups should definitely check out. Its colourful visuals and challenging gameplay are an enjoyable combination, but one that’s best consumed in small amounts. Otherwise, your right thumb will never forgive you.