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Game Info:

Cyber Shadow
Developed By: Aarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker
Published By: Yacht Club Games
Released: January 26, 2021
Available On: Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action Platformer
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
Number of Players: 1
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Yacht Club Games for sending us this game to review!

Anyone who grew up playing games on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) likely remembers a particularly challenging series of games called Ninja Gaiden. These were crazy hard – even the most dedicated players struggled to make it to the end. Certain games required more than just persistence to beat – you either had the skills, or you didn’t. For the record, I got extremely far on Ninja Gaiden, but I never was able to see those ending credits. Cyber Shadow is in many ways styled after that classic, combined with a few other inspirations – brutal difficulty included.

Now for those with particularly good memories, Cyber Shadow does not play exactly like Ninja Gaiden; while there are certainly clear levels that you have to play in order, there is also the ability to go back to earlier areas if you choose, and a small amount of backtracking is available to you if you wish to grab a power-up or other secret you missed. As you play, you gain new powers, like shuriken, air strike, wall slide, and more. Many of them cost skill points (SP) to use, but thankfully it’s generally easy to refill, as long as you don’t spam them excessively. As you find more and more hidden items throughout the levels, permanent upgrades to your hit points (HP) and SP almost always come in handy, unless you’re going for the ‘Born ready’ achievement, of course. (You have to beat the game without collecting any HP or SP upgrades.)

Throughout each level, you generally have a few different checkpoints, which is great, because that’s where you respawn when you die – and die you almost certainly will. This game, especially in a few notable spots, is just crazy difficult. The good thing is you have infinite lives – and you’re gonna need them. By the time I was far into chapter eight, I had died well over four hundred times. It was at this point that I counted my lucky stars that I was reviewing the PC version and downloaded a trainer (special cheating software) because I knew that I would never see the end credits anytime soon if I kept up at this rate. As fun as it is, I wanted to see the end while I was still in 2021 (aka release year).

Highlights:

Strong Points: Incredibly tight and skill-based action; high quality classic 8-bit style graphics; catchy chiptune music; incredibly challenging, so if you enjoy challenge, this game’s for you
Weak Points: Starts kinda slow, with few new abilities for quite a while; incredibly challenging, so if you get frustrated you might not enjoy this game
Moral Warnings: Violence against lots and lots of robotic and some cybernetic creatures; rare but occasional blood; one female has clothes that flatters her bosom; a mystical Ethos, dragons, spirits, and the afterlife play a part in the story; evil genius steals people’s life essence

The levels are littered with instant-death spikes all over the place, and you can accidentally trigger other dangerous enemies or even moving spikes as you go. I found that you might as well take the health listed in your HP count and divide it by at least two – almost everything does two (or more) damage when it hits you. The space between checkpoints can be arduously long at times, and nearly perfect play is expected of you. Some of the tricky platforming sections require the most skilled of hands to do well; there were even times when I brought out my PlayStation controllers because I find that their D-Pad is more consistent than the one I was using on my Xbox One controller. You need literally every advantage you can possibly get, because this game demands high-level play.

On top of some of the insanely hard platforming challenges, you also need to defeat many bosses to progress. Each one requires you to put your best foot forward – these are no pushovers. For some, I needed to learn to avoid various attack patterns (well, that goes for pretty much all of them). I remember one in particular basically requiring me to master a parry skill; later on, you gain the ability to return enemy fire back at them, but you must press the button combination to activate it at just the right time, or it won’t work and you’ll get hit. I can imagine playing this on a TV with poor input lag would really impact your ability to win! I can’t stress enough how difficult this game is, and it rarely holds your hand; you generally have to figure it all out on your own.

With that said, I have to say that the actual action platforming and combat is incredibly solid. If it wasn’t, the game would not be fun – and it certainly is, especially when doing well. Practice and memorizing patterns and enemy placement is certainly rewarded; beating that difficult boss that took 20+ tries to beat can be quite a relief, if you have the patience and persistence to see it through. Or you’re naturally gifted; I’ve known a few players like that over the years, and they never cease to impress me. Games like this can certainly show off their skills.

Cyber Shadow
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 83%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content – 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The story of why you awoke from sleep, and why there are so many robotic enemies everywhere – not to mention what happened to the master of your tribe and apparent love interest is mostly told through a combination of all pixel art cut scenes, and various terminals, as well as robotic and human helpers you can talk to on occasion. What starts out as mostly confusing does get a bit clearer as you go, and while the story is far from the main draw of Cyber Shadow, it is mostly interesting enough.

All of this classic action is backed up by graphics that do indeed remind you of the 8-bit era, as well as chiptune music and sound effects that feel very much like they came from thirty years ago as well. Everything from the blips and boops of the rather upbeat music (I felt that it should have been a bit darker at first to set the mood better, but it grew on me soon enough) to that crackly slashing sound you hear while slicing things with your weapon could all easy come straight out of 1990. It all fits – almost too well; the level design, massive enemies, and widescreen presentation are perhaps the biggest giveaways that this is not a game of that era.

As you might expect, there is quite a bit of violence, though the vast majority of enemies are either robotic or cybernetic (part human) in nature. There are a few cut scenes with blood, but it’s not a common occurrence. I do not recall seeing any foul language to speak of. One woman wears an outfit that flatters her bosom, though it’s not skin tight or anything. There is a spiritual aspect to the story, as discussion of the Ethos and communing with a dragon, spirits, and the afterlife are a part of the background of the subplot. An evil scientist drains the life essence out of living people to power some of his insane experiments.

Cyber Shadow is one of those games that is quite good, but the vast majority of players may simply never experience all that is has to offer. If you love classic-style games, but may not have the skills needed to see it through to the end, be sure to get it on PC, where (unofficial, unsupported) cheating is much easier than on other platforms. I mean why not – if you needed a Game Genie to beat Ninja Gaiden all of those many years ago, you might as well use the modern day equivalents, right? But if you think you have the skills, then I highly recommend this game – it’s brutal, but tons of fun. Especially once you finally beat that boss who’s been kicking your behind for the last half hour...

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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