Originally released back in late 2014 for both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a rare commodity in today’s gaming landscape - a modern take on the classic precision platformer, drawing inspiration from the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog, Metroid, Ducktales, Megaman and more. Whilst you might think that makes it anything but a rarity, the fact it matches these classics on all fronts sets it apart from the rest.
The game's perfectly married retro/eastern soundtrack will have you bhangra dancing in your seat.
Whipping your hair back and forth, whipping your hair back and forth - sorry, couldn’t resist - serves as Shantae’s basic form of offence, and the trusty ol’ Monster Whipper can be upgraded by spending gems you’ve collect at the store. Here you can also purchase altogether new moves to expand your arsenal, and inventory items to be activated when in need of a time-constrained buff. These range from rejuvenating potions and defensive shields, to damage-dealing orbitals and raw attack power boosts; you’ll want to use these to your advantage, as in the later stages, Shantae provides the stiff challenge you’d expect of the genre.
We have to give special mention to the game’s achievements, which are actually true to the term. Defeating bosses without taking damage, clearing a 16-screen segment without getting hit whilst unable to attack, completing a speedrun; they sound torturous, but they’re all doable by most with the investment of some time and patience. We had a lot of fun in their pursuit and they’ve definitely both improved our platforming skills and encouraged future playthroughs. What's more, each of the 44 unlocks boasts a piece of artwork that’d look right at home as anybody’s background.
If there’s one criticism we can muster, it’s that your current objective isn’t always clear. This falls down to the aforementioned Metroidvanian twist, as on occasion you’ll need to backtrack - baring new skills - in order to unearth previously inaccessible areas, and subsequently the key items they hold. In these instances you aren’t offered much help beyond obtuse hints, which can lead to bouts of aimless meandering as you wonder where you should be, what you should be doing, or who you should be speaking to.
Aside from that, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a thoroughly good time! Its sense of humour will make you laugh, its perfectly married retro/eastern soundtrack will have you bhangra dancing in your seat, the gameplay will keep the controller in your hands long since you should’ve put it down. Simple, elegant and upbeat, Shantae joins Shovel Knight in the pantheon of modern-classic precision platformers.