Shio, developed by Coconut Island Games, is the latest entry to the already crowded platforming genre. The game features well-designed levels that will test your dexterity and a far too ambiguous story that will test your patience as you try to piece it together. While the game doesn't achieve the level of great 2D platformers, like Ori and the Blind Forest or Super Meat Boy, Shio has its own unique charm to keep players hooked.
Shio has very simple controls and gameplay. There are no skill-trees, power-ups or special moves. The masked protagonist can move around but the only action he can perform is jumping. Pressing the jump button while you're in the air allows you to light lanterns, giving a short boost in mid-air. The power of boost is different for each and every lantern. You have to guide your hero from one checkpoint to another through adversities by lighting lanterns and jumping across the stage.
While the player character never gains any new moves or abilities, the game gradually introduces new mechanics in its level design, adding more layers to the complexity. The simple task of jumping over the gaps quickly becomes an adrenaline rush when they're replaced with roaring buzz saws, flying fireballs and death ray orbital laser strikes. Similar to Super Meat Boy, some levels require not only dexterity but also problem solving skills, as they are constructed as an obstacle-puzzle that requires solid planning to get past.
However, dying in Shio is not punishing at all. You simply get teleported back to the last checkpoint almost instantly so you can immediately jump back into action. This fluid and fast respawning is much welcomed in this trial-and-error laden game, as dying becomes constant in later stages. Overall, the gameplay and the levels can be difficult but Shio is well-designed and enjoyable.
There are two difficulty modes: Shallow Dream (easy) and Deep Sleep (hard). Only on the harder difficulty can you access hidden levels and collect hidden collectibles. There are four chapters and each consists of several checkpoints. You can return to any checkpoint from anywhere in the game. This is a godsend feature for any completionist who’d like to retry a certain level to get better a completion time for trophies.
Surprisingly, Shio has a story that seems very thoughtful and deep. However, it's heavily fragmented and extremely ambiguous, relying solely on symbolism and subtlety. As you collect collectibles, the hidden diary texts from the game menu will become visible. They shed light on the game’s incredibly cryptic story. In addition to that, pseudo cutscene-like levels will play out at certain intervals, which serve no other purpose but to shower you with some further story elements. I must admit that Shio's story was too far fragmented to my taste so I stopped caring about it after a while. It doesn't help that the text in the diary is not formatted properly, making it extremely hard to read and enjoy.
Aesthetically speaking, Shio is a gorgeous game. It features beautiful hand-drawn graphics with well-detailed animation. Instead of filling the screen with eye candy, the game has a somewhat minimalist approach with its art style enriched to the core with very soft and light colors reminiscent of oriental arts.
At the end of the day, whether you would enjoy Shio or not is largely dependent on your preferences. It's a stunning and understated game that offers rather difficult but enjoyable platforming experience and a very cryptic story for you to crack. If that is exactly what you're looking for, then Shio shouldn't be missed.
Lv-99 simple sheep