SHING!, released by Mass Creation and PixelHeart, is a side-scrolling beat’em up brawler that deserves a bit of recognition for trying something new even though its stand-out feature results in its biggest downfall. Instead of tapping buttons to perform light and strong attacks, all fighting is handled by knocking the right analog stick. This is not a button masher, this is an analog flicker.
The problem is the combat never feels responsive or accurate. It might sound like an interesting concept on paper and fighting against the training dummy in the opening tutorial is simple enough but ultimately becomes a lesson in frustration when put into practice. The inaccurate combat is only amplified by the cheap enemy AI and overwhelming number of bad guys you have to fend at one time.
Enemies always try to form pincer attacks, putting you right in the middle in a world of hurt with little chance to escape. All enemies, whether a boss or common grunt, have way too much health which makes each and every encounter an act of attrition. I wasn’t able to complete the first optional Challenge, for example, which asked me to complete a 10-hit aerial combo, due to the awkward analog controls, and I got totally smoked by the first major boss even when playing on the easy difficulty. Every encounter could be your last and enemies are ruthless in their pursuit to kill the crap out of you. Since it is easy to get overwhelmed, it is common to panic. Panic results in wild analog flicks which never generates the move you need. It is a frustrating loop that never diminishes.
Four ninjas need to reclaim the Starseed (no, not the Our Lady Peace song) and are loaded to the brim with immature personality. The childish jokes and unnecessary swearing is jarring and creates nothing but uncomfortable eye rolling.
The massive blemishes to the analog stick combat and brutal AI is a shame because there are some positive elements that really shine. The art style is really good, for example. The opening animated cinematic is also very impressive and gets you properly hyped for a ninja brawler. Each stage also contains optional challenge and lore rooms which are creative ways to flesh out the story and reward the player. When playing solo, the player can swap to any of the four characters by tapping the D-pad, each with their own health bar reminiscent of the original NES TMNT game. Unfortunately, these bright spots are not enough to save the infuriating combat.
Also available on PS4.