The “splatformer” – a dastardly difficult sub-genre of one of the most prolific game types out there – the platformer. That, by all accounts, should have us throwing our controllers across the room out of frustration as we’re thrust into level after level of sadistic design and dying hundreds if not thousands of times before we reach the goal.
However, since the early 2010s, it has been proven that as long as you have tight controls, a killer soundtrack and challenges that are difficult but fair, we’ll keep coming back again and again despite the number of deaths, and we’ll like it! We’re a masochistic bunch, aren’t we?
Well Dmytro Derybas is trying their hand at bringing the pain, in the colorful platformer that’ll make you go splat, Shmubedi Boo! However, will it bring something new to the table that kindles our need to watch those lives plummet, or is this game SO 2010?
Roses are Red
As a fan of jumping over pits, bouncing off the tops of enemies and weaving between life threatening death traps, I have always had a morbid fascination for the “splatformer”. There’s just something about overcoming the seemingly impossible obstacles thrown at you, as you progress further and further into the game. It’s why games like Super Meat Boy and Celeste are up there as some of my favorite games and why I was curious to see what this game, with the bizarre name, was all about.
Violets are Blue
Nonetheless, jumping into Shmubedi Boo and playing through the first 50ish of the 120 total levels kinda gave me the whole story. What I mean by that is, Shmubedi Boo is one of those games that has or had great potential, but due to its slight lack of polish compared to its peers, makes it much more frustrating and tedious, than satisfying and rewarding.
The quirks that hammer my point home are threefold. The first being its controls, which feel much too sensitive. This makes the precise platforming required in a game such as this not only difficult, but discouraging. Next is the collision detection, which is either way too liberal or exceedingly strict (I can’t tell) and produces “what the heck just happened” moments at a higher frequency than anyone would want. Finally, and this is a bit of a faux pas in the “splatformer” circles, the lives system. Which in a game where you’ll be dying hundreds if not thousands of times, really demotivates you from making progress.
Here’s the thing, once you run out of lives, you’ll have to start from the last checkpoint, which happens about every 10 levels. That’s a lot of progress lost! Now, there is one thing that eases the pain a little bit and that’s the Grim Reaper. Who you’ll visit each time your lives hit zero, and who’ll give you a chance to spin a roulette wheel, where each space can either have a 0, which means it’s game over, or a set amount of extra lives, which will let you continue where you left off. You know, with however many lives were in that space. The catch however, is that everytime you consume one of those spaces on the wheel, it’s gone for good. Meaning, the more you die, the less chance you have to start where you left off! An interesting mechanic for sure, but in a game where part of the whole mechanic is failure, that wheel runs out faster than you’d think!
Some Poems Rhyme
So, if I could give Shumbedi Boo one big criticism, it would be to get rid of that whole system. When I play games where I know I’m going to be dying a ton of times, I don’t want to have to worry about losing my progress, just because I’m learning a mechanic, the stage, or improving a skill! There’s nothing that’ll get me to stop playing a game quicker, than having to play those five same stages over again that I just struggled to get through!
It’s not all bad though, because the overall atmosphere in the game is light hearted and silly and although the sprite work is simple, it’s also cute and colorful, and I appreciate that. In addition, I like that there is more to do in each stage than just simply getting to the goal. You can, if you have the gumption, collect a wide variety of apples scattered throughout each stage which can then be used to purchase either more lives (definitely recommended) and hats/extra characters. Less recommended if you want to make it anywhere in the game, but still fun!
But This One Doesn’t!
I like to think of myself as having a high tolerance for difficult games, but when it comes to frustrations caused by factors that are out of my control, that’s where my threshold lies! That’s why polish, precision and tight controls are so important! It’s truly what makes the difference between a must play and a “stay away” game. Of course, these are things that can always be fixed, but as it stands, I’m not sure if I could recommend Shmubedi Boo. Unless of course you can find it at a deep discount, and are morbidly curious, like me, to see what it’s all about. Otherwise, I’d say stick to the classics and hope that Dmytro Derybas delivers on their next game.
If you’re interested in checking our Shmubedi Boo for yourself, you can find it right now on the Nintendo Switch!