Adventures of Shuggy is a 2D puzzle-platformer at heart, with the focus on speed-run puzzling. Thematically strong, the environment and humour is something that will remind you of Count Duckula, and maybe even The Trap Door. There's a brilliant use of comic-book style presentation to narrate the story - the artwork is top notch and it's consistent with the level of polish you'll find throughout the game as you fight to clear your new home of zombies, ghosts and spiky fiends.
Along the way, you'll encounter perplexing boss fights that present a new level of difficulty to what can already be a difficult game. These boss fights can be a welcome change as they present something different to the majority of levels you'll be racing through.
What's a Cat to do?
This is not a game that is designed around a core mechanic - rather it has a set of core mechanics that are used frequently and independently of one another from level to level. You'll come across levels where you can rotate the entire screen, use time manipulation, swing on ropes and travel through time.
Of these, I found the levels where you're dealing with time travel to be the most interesting. You'll notice a giant clock that counts down - when it does, a ghost of Shuggy will appear, repeating the actions that you'd taken thus far. Often, you'll need to design a period of time to unlock a door or disable an obstacle via your ghost - but allowing it to catch up to you will result in failure.
Release Date: 13/06/2012
Available on: PC
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In other levels, you can speed up time in order to get explosive little balls to move around the level quicker. The two time features are basic, and not as complex or intricate as the premise behind Super Time Force Ultra, for example.
There are also separate levels available in a local co-op feature which is something that you don't see too often in modern games, and something that I'd like to commend Smudged Cat Games for including and taking the time to work on so that it feels like a natural part of the game - and not something that was tacked-on.
There's often more than one way to finish a level, however others are tied down to a single solution or choke point. If you get stuck on one, the game allows you to try obtaining the necessary keys to unlock the next area from elsewhere in a generous piece of design. There are many more keys available than is necessary to unlock the next part of the mansion.
The variation in mechanics from level to level does help to keep the game feeling fresh and you'll rarely encounter an instance where you come across three levels in a row that rely on the same one.
Adventures of Shuggy is clearly aimed at the speed-running and completionist crowd - the sheer number of levels to slog through in the quickest time possible will appeal greatly if that's what you're looking for - and while it doesn't quite approach the same level of difficulty, it is obviously targeted at fans of super-frustration titles like Super Meat Boy and Daikatana.
Where it Falls Short
The game is initially fun, especially the first few times you get to play with a new mechanic - the image of a rope-swinging cat bringing particular amusement - but sadly this isn't a feeling that lasted for me.
The different areas of the house are sufficiently thematically different to prevent the game from feeling stale - the mechanical nature of the boiler room in particular providing a welcome change to the rather bland opening zone.
If you're on the lookout for a feline-themed game, you may initially think that Adventures of Shuggy fits that bill - but sadly it doesn't. The theme is the haunted house - you just happen to be a purple vampire cat. This is alluded to a couple of times in the narration, but not really addressed within the gameplay itself.
The objective for each room is the same - complete it as quickly as possible. This is great for speed-runners, as I mentioned earlier, but for people who aren't particularly fans of that type of challenge, the lack of variation is disappointing. There needs to be a couple of additional objectives to break the routine a little, such as attempting to collect as many gems as possible within a set time limit or finding a way to kill all enemies in a room with limited ammunition.
The further you get into the game, the more you'll be presented with rooms that are clearly meant to frustrate and take multiple attempts to clear. Again, this will cater to fans of the previously mentioned genres, but for the casual player, it may go past the point of fun and well into the realm of annoyingly frustrating. Something that will disappoint after the rather slow and casual introduction you're given.
The way that the game changes mechanics from room to room can be taken as a positive or a negative. I applaud the developers for taking a risk with it, and initially it does seem to work - but further into the game you realise that the mechanics never really evolve or become more complicated. The levels may become harder, but the core mechanics are used in exactly the same ways they are when they're first introduced.
While it's a good idea to allow the player to choose their own route through the many levels, sometimes in the early part of the game it doesn't quite work - if you take a path that's ‘wrong' you may end up struggling to come to grips with a new mechanic that hasn't yet been explained to you via the pop-up tutorial system. This can be a frustrating experience as there's no indication as to the ‘correct' way to progress through the early levels.
Wrapping up, Adventures of Shuggy offers a lot of game for €4.99. It's clearly lovingly made and has a high level of polish that's sadly quite rare in this price range. It also undoubtedly offers a lot of content that will make your first play through last several hours. As a ‘cat' game, it doesn't really fit the bill, though. Neither will it hold your attention if you're not a fan of speed-running or 100 percent-ing challenging games.
If, on the other hand, you've ever wanted to do that while playing as a cute, strangely coloured vampire-cat, this is the game for you!
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Adventures of Shuggy is developed by Smudged Cat Games Ltd.