SHING! – Review
Nintendo Switch, PS4
2021 – Pixelheart
From the developer Mass Creation and published by PixelHeart & Just for Games, SHING! is an old-fashioned beat’em up that offers gameplay in a spirited adventure with a band of joking warriors. Discover fast and freestyle combat thanks to intuitive gameplay. Chain combos, parades and acrobatics with four playable heroes that you can choose from at any time during the game.
And after playing SHING! all the way through they are spot on with their description.
- Includes 4 playable characters and 14 different enemy types
- Supports up to 4 players via local co-op (online co- op to follow later in 2020)
- Features 8 stages with unique environments and exciting boss fights
- Release: 2021
- Support: Nintendo Switch, PS4
- Genre: Beat’em up
- Developer: Mass Creation
- Publisher: PixelHeart / Just for Games
The Starseed has been stolen from the city by a strange evil horde and the wise cracking team that was supposed to protect it set out across the land to get it back. You will hack and slash your way through waves of enemies across 8 levels. The game has an oriental inspired theme mixed with some fantasy elements. The locations look to be set in feudal Japan with some enemies looking like they came from Middle Earth.
There are four fighters to choose from and all control the same but have different weapons and different special abilities. The Differences are subtle and any one of them can be used in all situations.
Tetsuo – The wise cracking swordsman tasked with protecting the Starseed.
Aiko – The fierce swords-woman also part of the team signed to protect the Starseed and keep an eye on Tetsuo, whom she may have a crush on.
Bichiko – The vixen polearm swinging older sister of Aiko who protects the town.
Wilhelm – The rugged, seasoned warrior from a far away land also seeking to end the plague of evil spreading across the land.
All four characters control the same way and despite having different weapons, seem to pretty much have the same stats. Now for the review I received a digital copy of the game, so there is no manual and I could see any different stats between the characters. They do perform different special moves but all seem equal. Maybe Aiko and Tetsuo are faster and Bichiko and Wilhelm have stronger attacks, but I couldn’t really notice.
Each level has you starting with one of the four fighters and moving right across the screen. There are often multiple screens/locations that make up each level with a boss waiting for you at the end. This is very reminiscent of any classic side-scrolling beat-em up like Streets of Rage or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You can also move up and down on the field like the retro games of old, so you are not stuck to a single plane.
While playing you can press the D-Pad to switch to another character. You can do this as much as you like. When your fighter goes down you call in another one immediately. He or she can continue the fight and if they have enough health, they can pick up the fallen hero and add them back to the que with a little health taken from you. If you have too little health you will not be able to pick them up. However, if you clear the current wave of enemies all fallen comrades on the ground are sent back to the que. If all four die in battle you have to return to a check point or restart the level.
Once you clear a level you can select and play through it ay anytime from the main menu. This is great for trying to climb the leaderboards get new skin bonuses for each character.
Found on each level are special rooms that you can enter from the battlefield. These can be Lore rooms where you have short conversations and find out more about the history, or just listen to the characters argue. Other rooms might be Challenge rooms where you have to perform a certain task in a set period of time, like only killing the monsters using the parry attack for instance. Once visited these can all be selected from the main menu. The challenges are a great way to hone specific skills. And an added bonus is that once you complete these rooms you are given either medals which can unlock new skins or in some cases you get a new skin right when you finish.
This is where the game gets interesting and different from other similar games. When you first start the game you are asked to choose between two different control styles (which can be changed at anytime in the settings). The default method, and the one I started with, uses the right thumb-stick for attacks. So pressing towards and enemy will do a basic slash. Pressing a diagonal direction will have you do a high or low slash. Pressing up will send most enemies into the air with you following them to continue to fight in the air. In addition to single direction pushes you can do rolls and other combinations to execute more advanced moves. Getting the basic attacks going is pretty easy but mastering the more advanced techniques will take a little time. The left stick is used to move your character around the playfield.
The other control method provided assigns the attack to a button and takes the direction of attack from the left move stick. I tried switching to this after playing a few levels and found it more constrictive so I switched back almost immediately. The right thumb-stick method is not without its’ faults though. If you want to do three or four basic slashes you have to tap the thumb-stick quick, basically pressing right (or any other direction) several quick times in a row, which is not something your are normally used to. But you get the hang of it after a level or two.
You also have a jump, block, kick and dash. All of these are very useful to specific enemies and when combined with the multiple attack directions you can pull off some very impressive attack combos, juggles and counterstrikes. By about level 3 I had become much better at everything and was performing some very ninja like maneuvers.
The jump button is pretty self explanatory but you can also attack in the air, so you can knock a monster up into the air, then jump and continue to attack and juggle the guy in the sky, with each hit suspending your fall for a split second. This also becomes mandatory from some of the air-based enemies who can’t be reached from the ground.
The block button has some nice mechanics also. You can just hold the button down and block many attacks, but if you time the block just right you can perform a vicious parry attack. All enemies have a small signal that they are about to attack, and hitting block right when this happens pops up a direction icon signaling you to press any direction on the attack stick to perform a special counterattack in the direction you push. This can be very satisfying. In addition to the counterattack you can deflect projectile attacks back at the bad guy (or girl). This deflection is cool but also required against certain enemies so you’ll want to master it. It’s much easier to fight a flying hawk-man if you send his arrow back to him and it drops him to the ground.
The kick is useful in kicking back one or multiple clumped up enemies. The small foes will be knocked to the ground giving you a few seconds to go in for the kill. The kick also works great with combos and can be performed mid-air. Larger enemies however can not be knocked down or back.
Lastly there is the dash. The dash in this game is very useful and you should find yourself using it all the time. It can be initiated at anytime and in any direction. You can also dash while you are in the air which makes for some impressive combos. The most useful reason to dash is to get out of trouble. If you are surrounded you can dash through the hoard and get to the outside, giving you a better position to attack the whole group. You will also get a special power up that will drop grenade like charges at the location you are dashing from. So when you’re surrounded and dash away you leave an explosive on the ground that takes out the whole group. Good stuff.
As if all that wasn’t enough there are special abilities or power-ups that enimies drop. Most monsters have a color or element, green, red and blue for example. When dispatched they will drop an orb or orbs that matches that color for the most part. Green orbs will heal you, reds will cover you weapon in fire and make your attacks stronger and blue/white will give your weapon awesome projectile lighting strikes. These upgrades are important as they will help you deal with certain foes easier. Your lighting strikes for instance will burst the shields on a bad guy that you otherwise would not be able to hit. There are also orbs that give you a shield and bombs. Above function they also look awesome! When your warrior has several of these abilities stacked they are a glowing force to be reckoned with!
SHING! has some nice graphics. While the game has a retro beat’em up feel, the graphics do not. They are modern and sharp. The locations range from city streets to desert plains and rivers and all look great with lots of little details both in the foreground and background. You will often see enemy silhouettes emerging from some close foreground location or climbing out from behind barrels in the background.
The characters and enemies all have nice detail and are easy to identify. And the animations are an area that SHING! really shines. You character transitions from each attack, jump and dash in silky smooth fashion making you feel like a sword swinging master. And with the final blow, having bad guys being sliced in half or loosing a limb or even their head, is very satisfying.
So while the graphics aren’t pushing the limits of the hardware, they are perfect for this type of game.
SHING! sports a nice soundtrack for each level. It’s a nice blend of Tecno and guitar driven Rock. And the name of the game itself, “SHING!”, represents the continuous sounds of your weapon cutting through and parrying enemies. In addition to a great soundtrack the character voices and banter are done by professionals and sound spot on, if not a bit stereotypical.
SHING! is an easy game to jump into, but a hard game to master. At the beginning of each level you will often face off with one to two new enemy types. You will most likely pick these new baddies off pretty easily, but then, later in the level you will face them again but this time they might have 3-4 additional monster types you faced before with them. When faced with these mixed groups it can become a bit of a problem as each one throws a different style attack that you have to deal with. So you might be sword fighting a large yoki orc-like creature while another is throwing bombs from the back and another is shooting arrows from the sky, then yet another might be building up a charge to rush you. It can become hard to focus on all the attacks coming at you and trying to block your way out of it. So it can be difficult at times, they ease you into it and then throw everything they have at you. It does however make victory all the sweeter.
The game sports a leader board for each level and difficulty to see how you rank against other players in time to complete and damage taken. I really like this as after I got more comfortable with he controls I knew I could do the first few levels better and in-turn climb up the leader boards some. At the end of each level you are shown your stats for the level and what you have to de to become a “master”. It gives the game some good replay ability.
This game can also be played by up to 4 players locally, like the classic fighters of old. My son and I jumped into so two player action and had a blast.
I’m really liking the games PixelHeart is publishing. Good, easy to pick up games with a nod to old school retro classics. SHING! is no different. There aren’t many negative things to be said about it. Really one of the most glaring issues is load times, which is a bit odd. But in-between levels or even sections within a level there can be some long load times compared to todays standards, which slows down the action a little. My copy was a special download for the review on the Nintendo Switch, so this may be addressed before final release or be non-existent on the Playstation 4. Outside of that though the game is more than solid.
SHING! gets a solid 4 out of 5 Trog.