Review – Cyber Shadow

In 2014, a little company called Yacht Club Games graced the world with their little kickstarted project called Shovel Knight. I still consider it to be not only one of the best indie games of all time, but one of the best games of all time, period. For the next few years, Yacht Club would proceed to add multiple expansions for its magnum opus. Its main character would make appearances in games like Yooka-Laylee and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. He would even star in a party-focused spinoff called Shovel Knight Showdown.

We were all wondering what Yacht Club would do next. Well, here they are with their brand new game… sort of. Cyber Shadow wasn’t developed by the Shovel Knight devs, but actually endorsed and published by them. A company with such talent wouldn’t want to relate itself to a dud, so I was looking forward to Cyber Shadow despite being developed by someone else.

Cyber Shadow

Cyber Shadow’s platforming segments can be a nuisance at times.

Cyber Shadow follows suit in the tradition of indie games being cautiously developed to resemble a NES game in every single way, be it in terms of graphics, scrolling, sound, and the fact you only use two action buttons on your controller. You take control of a cyborg ninja in a quest to rescue your former clan from a bunch of evil robots and cybernetic hybrids. It’s not exactly a deep plot, and honestly, that’s for the best. It’s a NES-ish action game, you don’t want to waste your time too much on storytelling when there’s so much slashing and platforming to be done.

First things first, Cyber Shadow was fully developed by a single person, and that alone is already worth a ton of praise. With the exception of the soundtrack, which was composed by none other than Jake Kaufman (so you can already imagine this is top-tier stuff), the entire game was designed, drawn, and coded by a single person, Finland-based Aarne Hunziker. To top it off, Cyber Shadow is quite good. It’s not perfect and nowhere near as impressive as Yacht Club’s own works, or other retro-inspired games like the near flawless The Messenger, but it’s still worth your time.

Cyber Shadow

“Are you a bad enough ninja to rescue the clan?”

At first glance, you would imagine that your main character would move around like Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden, but that’s just half truth. You slash your sword in a near identical fashion, but you’re much heavier, a bit slower, and nowhere near as acrobatic. Cyber Shadow‘s gameplay feels like an odd mix between Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, and Castlevania. The level design is quite reminiscent of classic Mega Man games, while the upgrade system, character movement, boss battles, and sidearm “ammunition” reminded me a lot of Castlevania III, as well as its adoptive brother, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon.

There are some issues regarding the gameplay, however. One thing the developer sadly borrowed from these classic games is the inclusion of knockback. There isn’t anything as annoying as dying over and over again in a (slightly clunky) platforming section because your character flies back whenever a small cybernetic mosquito touches him. To make matters worse, some of these segments feature enemies placed in such a way that it’s basically impossible for you not to be hit (and therefore, die) at least once by them.

I love this game’s boss fights.

As a result, Cyber Shadow can occasionally feel a bit unfair and a bit cheap. It’s almost as if it was purposefully designed to be impossible to beat in your first run. There will always be an enemy or a trap sucker punching you. That doesn’t mean that Cyber Shadow is always unfair. In fact, its character progression and boss battles were its highlights. Boss battles are all about memorizing patterns. You will be mutilated on your first try and quickly respawn in front of the arena. After a bit of trial and error, you’ll end up beating a boss without ever getting hit once. The more bosses you beat, the more powerups you acquire, making the second half of the game a bit more forgiving as a result. There are also hidden upgrades scattered throughout each level.

A robot baddie with a backpack. How cute!

Cyber Shadow is not the best retro-infused indie platformer starring a ninja I’ve played in recent memory, but it’s still well worth your time. It’s occasionally unfair and frustrating, but once you reach a boss battle or a better designed level, you’ll be greeted with a surprisingly rewarding action experience with great visuals and soundtrack. The fact it was developed by a single person makes it even more impressive. This is not exactly what I was expecting from Yacht Club Games’ first post-Shovel Knight endeavor, but it still did not disappoint.


Graphics: 8.0

The animations aren’t as fluid as other 8-bit inspired indies like Shovel Knight or The Messenger, but it still looks pretty good, especially when playing in portable mode.

Gameplay: 7.0

Although the controls are simple, the gameplay suffers from a few inconsistencies. The platforming is a bit wonky, knockback is annoying, and most enemies either fly or are too small to make your limited attacks useful. Those are issues you can get used to, but are irritating nonetheless.

Sound: 9.0

An iconic chiptune soundtrack that manages to sound epic and retro at the same time. It’s easily where Cyber Shadow shines the brightest.

Fun Factor: 7.5

There are times in which Cyber Shadow feels like a challenging but fair experience, while there are times the level design feels like it was purposefully crafted to troll with you. The game shines during boss battles and exploration segments. It becomes a painful nightmare during platforming sections.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Cyber Shadow is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.