Cyber Shadow — Dashing to the bits

Shadow awakens in a contained city of ruin, Mekacity; finding fallen clan members along the way to stitch together his future. Platforming through the city tempered by a slow burn of gameplay. Timed dash moves and bail me out airstrikes make for a great weekend or two—Cyber Shadow.

As they enter publisher status, Yacht Club Games presents an homage to challenging 8-bit platformers. All the ingredients are here: good music, gritty pixel art, and off screen hazards. Mechanical Head Games developed a good foundation of which I hope there’s more to come.

Cyber Shadow’s gameplay was distracting in the best way. Getting better and mastering each new move set was the goal. Throughout your journey you awaken powers by collecting special orbs usually towards the end of a chapter or big boss fight.

Cyber Shadow
Sometimes it’s worthwhile to take risks.

One of the first powers you learn is a classic, the shuriken. Although I encountered use cases for the shuriken none of the early powers were that appealing to me. Mostly because my sword attack did more damage even if it meant playing riskier. Towards the end of my playthrough naturally the powers I leaned on were parrying, airstrike, dash. Overall there’s plenty here for all different playstyles whether passive or hasty.

About midway there’s a skill check of sorts. Mekadragon. This is your classic boss that takes up most of the screen, sporadic movement included. This boss fight highlighted something for me. I tend to ignore signs in games that suggest how it wants you to play. I kept trying to brute force my way to the next step. There’s a reason Mekadragon is dropping SP, this refuels your special move capabilities. It also became glaringly obvious that there’s a pixel perfect nook to exploit for extra damage.

Shadow defeating the Chapter 4 boss: Mekadragon. CRT and Bad Wires filters are on to give the game a retro touch.
1HP left. Boss defeated. Exhale. Note: both CRT filters on.

I felt contention throughout Cyber Shadow about what I feel is happening and what’s actually happening. I tried multiple controllers. I blamed myself. I blamed the game. In the end who knows, but some of the move sets just don’t feel satisfying. This is also ignoring the fact that most of these powers are unlocked towards the end. Shadow really started to feel himself specifically after visiting a mythical serpentine creature. Suddenly I’m met with a Chapter 8 screen. My time was coming to a close yet it didn’t feel that way.

The cross slash is my favorite move, even though I was unable to consistently execute. It’s both a boost in traveling distance and invincible frames. You could dash through peril but my thumb wasn’t having it. I tried the other sprint option of button activating instead of double tapping; this just felt worse for me.

Cyber Shadow
Dashing is satisfying when it works.

I have to shout out the swag blade. It was unclear at first if special items were unlimited or expired; it’s the latter. Easily one of my favorite pickup items in any game of all time. The way swag blade works is you time your blade so that you hit a revolving spinning blade back and forth like a yo-yo. Not only that but it also revolves through platforms and nearly everything. I’m renaming this item to swagger blade because of the confidence it gave anytime I wielded it.

All of this said, I wish the soundtrack would’ve been available to listen to while writing this. It’s a great compliment to what can feel like a subdued art palette. There are queues in the music that reminded me of a certain blue bomber; I appreciated the nostalgia these sound bytes gave me. Something along the lines of I’ve played this game before so feel at home.

Shadow approaches a fallen clan member who spiritually communicates: I was so close.
A common thread in Cyber Shadow.

As a package I can easily recommend Cyber Shadow to fans of difficult platformers. Even if other elements make you curious just remember it’s okay to step away. I’m almost certain the final boss on my first completion accounted for a quarter of my total deaths. Just for fun I tried that final boss with dashing hindsight I reached the end cutscene in only a handful of tries.

I do hope history repeats itself in that there’ll be some extra content to look forward to. Shadow’s powers have a lot of platforming life left. Mechanical Head Games has paid homage so a return would shine best with a modern polish here and there.

Cyber Shadow is available now on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch.

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