For those who missed it during the holiday AAA deluge last year (like myself) or are looking to fill out their Switch library, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a fun-filled adventure that’s made even better by the ability to take it on the go! While this re-release on the switch doesn’t have any version-exclusive content, players will get the Risky Boots DLC with the full game before it lands on other platforms. This new adventure lets you play as Shantae’s nemesis, Risky Boots, and while I won’t spoil anything about it here, it adds a lot of fun to an already great game.
As for the main event, Half-Genie Hero, from the title screen to the theme song even those gamers with the hardest hearts wont be able to help but crack a smile. The art direction is reminiscent of an early 2000’s cartoon that could as easily be on Cartoon Network as the Switch. The whimsical soundtrack completes the cute aesthetic. Jaunty tunes accompany Shantae as she trots through town, the tempo escalating when she finds herself in perilous predicaments. Ominous Minor keys perfectly accompany dialog foreshadowing worrisome events. Enemies are equally colorful, though their design can be a bit bland at times. Luckily, in Spite of their sometimes unmemorable style It’s always easy to spot baddies against the background of the various worlds.
Throughout her travels, Shantae makes good on her genie half and gains the ability to transform into multiple adorable animal incarnations of herself. Each allows her to traverse the world in new and interesting ways which further open up the map for exploration. For instance, her monkey form allows her to climb walls and wall jump to get to otherwise unreachable areas while the mermaid form lets her swim to hidden areas. Her animal forms also add sorely needed variety to the combat and really get interesting when changing forms on the fly. Dealing with a particularly pesky area by switching to the monkey wall jumping then switching midair to the harpy to fly over and above traps is one instance of the neat traversal that synergizing her transformations makes possible.
Jumping, dashing, and attacking seldom get old thanks to these transformations but Shante isn’t just a platformer. In the same way that the game uses animal forms to mix up the movement and level design. Plus Shantae adds RPG character upgrades to keep character progression and collectables interesting. The simplest enhancements, like the ability to increase damage, can be purchased in the town square. However, the rarer power-ups that give Shante’s animal forms added abilities or allow her to change gems to hearts are hidden away in some pretty obscure locations. Without a doubt any fan of collect-athon games will have their fill trying to find everything in Shantae.
With its wonderful cartoon aesthetics and happy-go-lucky soundtrack accompanying a fun and challenging platformer, it’s difficult to criticize Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. It gets a lot of things right, but if there’s one shortcoming, it has to be that the game falls victim to its own lightheartedness. The story, the characters, and gameplay while all superb aren’t very substantial, causing the experience to fade pretty quickly after putting the game down. It’s not a vapid game; it has plenty of heart, but there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about it. It’s a great sunday afternoon platformer with engaging gameplay, but don’t expect to be studying its level design for hours on end or to lose any sleep over its simple story. Instead take it for what it is: a solid platformer with RPG and exploration elements wrapped up in a smile-inducing package.