Killing You Harshly
Super difficult platformers seem to be a genre all their own recently with standout titles like Super Meat Boy, the End is Nigh, or crafting ridiculous stages in Super Mario Maker. While challenging for sure, no one has ever played these games for their story or narrative elements. Shio takes this tough-as-nails platforming mentality but tries to integrate a deep narrative that completely misses the mark. After spending several hours with Shio, I couldn’t tell you one thing about the story even though the presentation puts a strong emphasis on it. Something about a mask, some lights, the character falling asleep on a weird park bend, and might secretly be a little girl who walks really slow in the rain. The story just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and you need to be on drugs to understand it.
Ignoring the story, Shio is all about frustrating difficult platforming segments, ultimately with the goal of getting from one side of the screen to the other while avoiding environmental hazards. It is worth pointing out that Shio does not have any enemies. There are no baddies to stomp, enemies to shoot, or swords to swing. Instead, the player solely traverses through an environment that is designed to one-hit kill the player over and over.
The gimmick behind Shio that makes it unique is the lantern-jumping mechanic. By default, the player can simply jump and move left and right. Instead of double jumping or wall jumping, the player can bounce off lights that are conveniently placed throughout each stage. Hopping off lights actually provides a satisfying whip-cracking sound effect but the problem comes from the inconsistency. For example, one light will cause the player to bounce a few feet in the air but the next might rocket the player skyward. Since there is no distinction between these lanterns, the player is forced through unfair trial and error throughout the entire five hour campaign.
Shio becomes frustratingly difficult after the opening segments even though there is a liberal checkpoint system. Some platforming segments are so difficult that the checkpoint system simply isn’t enough; it needs to be save states. For the most part, jumps need to be pixel perfect with motion and momentum being the deciding factor between success or failure. The problem is, the player has almost zero manual control over momentum and there is only one height for jumps. Mario, for example, can jump higher the longer the button is held. Here in Shio, the character jumps the same height if the button is tapped or held. This means each stage can only be completed in one very specific way and if you don’t do it correctly, try, try again.
Due to these restrictions, the level design is tedious, frustrating, and not fun. Just when you complete a super hard jump that killed you two dozen times, you get killed one second later by the next difficult platform, only to be sent back to the beginning to do it again. It is completely demoralizing. Besides light hopping, the levels introduce new mechanics like fog of war, moving spinning blades, water streams, and lights that turn on and off. It is cool that these new features are introduced throughout the campaign but they are all annoying instead of entertaining. For example, forcing the player to land on a crumbing platform the size of your shoe is tedious enough, let alone forcing the player to do several times in a row just to reach the next checkpoint. Everything in the environment wants to kill you too. If you stand on the floor for more than three seconds, you burn. If you don’t jump fast enough with the right amount of momentum, you will get zapped by a sky laser. Miss that jump, you will fall into a pit or straight into an orange spiky blade. Jump to fast and you’ll overshoot your mark. Again, everything can and most definitely will kill you.
Shio also experiences some technical issues that plague the experience. Dropped frames happen frequently and caused me to lose plenty of lives unnecessarily, another big annoyance. Also, one time I saved my game, then booted it up the next day, and everything was in Japanese. But because the story is so freakin’ weird, I thought this was part of the game. I only realized the language magically changed by itself after playing for about an hour, leaving me to stumble in the options menu looking for the English option. Finally, there is no pause option. Well, the player can pause during the stupid cutscenes but cannot pause during gameplay. Huh, ok..?
By no means is Shio a perfect game and is definitely not for everyone. In fact, Shio is really only for people who hate themselves. I’m talking, like, I enjoy cutting myself in the basement kind of hate myself. The difficulty is so unfair and tedious, you will wind up breaking more controllers in frustration than high scores or fastest times. My biggest annoyance, however, is that I am literally at the last checkpoint in the game (my save file says I’m at 99% complete) but I cannot beat the last platforming segment because it is super unfairly difficult. Frustrating, frustrating, frustrating.
Not As Good As: not hating yourself
Similar To: being trapped in a room full of mosquitoes
Also Try: Super Mario Maker on Switch