Adventures of Shuggy will make you shout, curse, pull your hair out and punch your monitor - but all in a good way.
If you enjoy “puzzle platformers," games that take Mario-style running, jumping and monster-dodging and mix it with a healthy dose of brain-teasing, then Adventures of Shuggy will feel like a little slice of heaven.
The game follows the adventures of Shuggy - hence the title - a googly-eyed vampire who's inherited a great, grey, run-down Scottish castle from his grandfather. But it's a mess, infested with rats, spiders, bumblebees, levitating spiky ball things, electrical traps and more. And Shuggy, despite being a vampire, isn't a particularly tough guy. Contact with any of them means an immediate death - or, more precisely, an immediate restart - so he has to traverse every room in the house, "cleaning" them by collecting gems, while avoiding everything that moves.
It's a great spectacle, with bright, colorful graphics, a visual style that's best described as "Halloween whimsy gone wild" and an infuriatingly catchy theme song. (Seriously, this is going to be stuck in my head for days.) What makes it truly unique, though, is that it boasts a wide range of completely different game mechanics that changes from level to level. Some are very conventional - jump over monsters and between platforms, collect the gems and be on your way - but most serve up some sort of unusual twist to the action.
Some levels, for instance, have to be rotated in order to make all the gems accessible, while others are upside-down or sideways, leaving the control keys turned on end or completely reversed. Some make use of a bizarre time-reversal mechanic, complete with "30-seconds-ago Shuggy" following precisely in your footsteps and doing exactly what you've already done, and occasionally you'll even have multiple Shuggies who have to work together as a team. There's more - a lot more - and it can get quite devious.
That, of course, can lead to moments of frustration, because although Shuggy's puzzles tend to be relatively short and sweet, there's no option to save your progress in the midst of a level. If you blow the last jump in a particularly tricky room, in other words, everything resets and you're sent right back to the very beginning. We're not talking about losing hours of gameplay here, but even so, clumsy fingers can lead to a lot of shouting and less-than-pleasant utterances.
It's hard to be too critical of frustrating moments in a game like this - it's kind of inherent to the genre - but it's fair to say that occasional urges to ragequit shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
The PC version of Adventures of Shuggy (it originally came to life last summer as an Xbox Live release) is exclusively keyboard-controlled, and although it can seem a little mushy or sluggish at first, particularly when you're trying to control jumps, it's consistent enough that only a short period of adjustment should be needed before it begins to feel at least reasonably comfortable. The keyboard is a fine fit for this sort of gameplay, although it may get a little cramped when two people try to play through the game's 36 two-player co-op levels.
Those 36 co-op levels are on top of the game's 100-plus single-player rooms that will lead Shuggy from the opening Dungeon to the Boiler Room, the Gallery, the Clock Tower and the Graveyard, each with its own unique appearance and challenges. There's a lot to do, and even when you've done it all, you're not necessarily done. Online leaderboards allow you to share and compare your time with other players (and try to beat them, naturally) and there are also a dozen Steam achievements up for grabs.
A few of the puzzles can be a little tedious, but given the sheer volume of gameplay on offer, the overall level of quality is very impressive. Coupled with a top-notch presentation and a real attention to detail with things like great music and comic-book-style interludes that tell Shuggy's story, it makes Adventures of Shuggy a fantastic, fun game that deserves to be a big hit.
- Great variety of gameplay. Charming visuals and excellent music.
- Moments of frustration. No support for controllers.