I am a terrible gamer, by my own admission. This can in fact be clarified by several of our community members, not least of all Metalrodent, who was the victim of my erratic shooting in Halo 3 many a time. I apologise, Rodent, for shooting you in the backside so many times. It wasn't intentional, honest. My general ineptitude isn't just limited to shooters, though – my inability to properly control anything at speed renders me pretty much useless at platformers, as well. With this in mind, when I was offered the chance to play Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on PS4 following Sam’s review of the Xbox One version, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I accepted.
Shantae isn't the first to try it this gen, of course – I quite enjoyed my foray into the world of Shovel Knight last year, as well – but it serves to prove that despite the old school visuals and the often repetitive nature of the genre, there’s still a special place in our hearts for something that takes us back to when games didn't set out to be visual masterpieces; they just wanted to entertain.
...playing Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on the PlayStation 4, I could quite easily be ten years old again, sat on my parents’ front room floor, cross-legged with a bowl of Lucky Charms...
As anyone who’s played Shantae and the Pirate's Curse will know, it’s an absolute gem of a game. Suffice to say, as much as I've enjoyed playing it, there would be no point in me talking about it all over again, because Sam already covered that ground rather fabulously with his review back in March. However, it serves as a great platform for the question – why do we love retro style games so much, when we have machines capable of running games that look like more like films?
There’s no definitive answer to that, naturally – everyone is going to have different reasons and they’d all be equally as valid as the next, but I think it’s about nostalgia, and simplicity. When you’re playing a game like Shantae, aside from the chance of losing your patience when you've tried to make that jump ten times and you’re still dying, you have very little actual thinking to do. There are no complex systems to master, and you don’t need a strategy guide or wiki the size of a small country to get the most out of it; you just play it.
The simplicity is evident in the entirety of the game, yet it doesn't feel lacking because of it – the control scheme is easy to master, you don’t need to learn any eight-button combos that you've then forgotten when you go back to the game a week later. It follows, then, that with less intricate work devoted to programming controls and rendering life-like visuals, game developers can get away with putting more into being genuinely creative in other areas – Shantae is a veritable plethora of bright colours and environments, and the animations are just awesome.
Then, of course, games like Shantae and the Pirate's Curse are so easy to pick up and sink a few minutes at a time into, that sometimes they’re just more appealing than the likes of an immersive RPG or MMO. Reminiscent of mobile and handheld gaming (which is where Shantae’s roots lie, of course), they’re perfectly more suited to shorter bursts of play than other genres, making them instantly more accessible.
For all their simplicity, fun and addictiveness, though, it really all boils down to one thing for me, and that's, again - nostalgia. As I'm playing Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on the PlayStation 4, I could quite easily be ten years old again, sat on my parents’ front room floor, cross-legged with a bowl of Lucky Charms (because they weren't something you had to buy imported at £7 a box then…) next to me. And as much as I love sinking entire weekends into The Elder Scrolls Online, sometimes, nothing quite beats feeling like a kid again.