Soaked in faux 80s nostalgia and pixelated graphics and backed by a thumping soundtrack, Cyber Shadow propels you through a technological hellscape, as you face off against mechanical enemies and toe-curlingly difficult platforming.
The game is brought to you by Finnish game devs Mechanical Head Studios and published by Yachtclub Games, who were behind 2014’s pixely platformer Shovel Knight. Cyber Shadow is a neon-infused dash, side-scrolling through a 2D world of machines and spikes in which you must hop, slide, and slash your way through each level.
The game takes a lot of inspiration from classic side-scrollers, with Ninja Gaiden being the clearest inspiration. Cyber Shadow is super challenging, with enemies that can and will send you right back to one of the game’s checkpoints, knocking you into a locked animation of pain as you tumble into instakill spikes below. While there are some elements of exploration, these mostly extend to optional collectibles and secrets, with the story being pretty linear.
The combat takes centre stage and features a variety of skills beyond the starting slash. You’re able to unleash fire to strike foes above you, or use a shuriken, the ninja throwing star, to hit enemies at range. The game’s setup encourages the player to learn how each enemy functions in order to take them out soon as possible; trying to run past them will often result in them catching up to you, sending you back to the checkpoint.
The combat is probably best showcased in the boss fights, which bookend most levels, and test players’ combat and platforming skills prior to facing off against each boss. These bosses fall into two main categories: one is sized roughly the same as the player character, relying on area of effect attacks, and require timing to take down. The other type is a large and mostly unmoving enemy, which requires the player to avoid attacks which track their movements. While the bosses usually pass by without much fanfare, each one is brilliant and challenging in their own way, with my only complaint being that there are too few.
The story in Cyber Shadow definitely takes a back seat: basically, you quest to save your ninja master / romantic interest. This isn’t much of an issue here, as other aspects of the games are so enthralling. The story is perfect for what it is and I was pleasantly surprised by the kind of schlocky action movie fare that fits with the game’s tone.
While completing Cyber Shadow I died 863 times in just over 17 hours of play. I spent my time with the game perishing again and again against what should have been simple enemies, or falling into spikes, or electrified water. The main key is to not let up, keep on your toes and try to find ways to sweep the level as cleanly and quickly as possible. When this is done correctly it’s supremely satisfying.
With kickass combat, gnarly visuals, and killer soundtrack, Cyber Shadow is a game you really should have a go at. You should especially give it a try if you need the nostalgia hit of Super Metroid or Ninja Gaiden, but also if you’ve enjoyed the combat, platforming and general vibe of games like Hollow Knight or Xeodrifter. Don’t expect a grand epic, but if you’re into badass action games that test your reflexes and tenacity, strap in and enjoy.