Shutshimi review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Totally Choice
Developer: Neon Deity
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Here’s how I know Shutshimi is a great game: because I really, really enjoyed it.

That’s actually no small feat. See, Shutshimi is a shmup, a genre I’ve never particularly liked. I don’t hate them with a burning passion or anything, they just usually bore me. I liked both Velocity games on the Vita, but beyond that, I’ve had a tough time getting into them, no matter how well made they are.

Until Shutshimi, that is. Turns out my main problem with shmups is that I just didn’t have the attention span to take on wave after wave of enemies. Make each level ten seconds long, though — as Shutshimi does — and suddenly I can’t get enough of it. I’ll gladly play through level after level until I die, and then I’ll start over all again as soon as I can. If that’s not the definition of an addictive game that even appeals to people who don’t normally like the genre, I don’t know what is.

Shutshimi 2

It’s not just ultra-short levels that made Shutshimi so appealing, though. It’s…well, everything. The way it crams an insane amount of action into those ten second levels, making it move so quickly you barely even get a chance to think about what you’re doing. The incredibly varied enemies, ranging from kittens in space ships to sharks with laser beams attached to their heads to squids that are, uh, plain old squids. The way it dispenses power-ups, giving you ten seconds to choose between a few option, all of which are accompanied by funny text, many of which don’t, in fact, help you that much (though pick enough hats and you get a trophy out of it, if that’s your thing). The fact the main characters are all fish with giant, muscular arms.

And, of course, there are the weapons. Some of them — lasers, machine guns — are exactly what you’d expect in a shmup. Others, like the shotgun, make a little less sense when you actually think about them, particularly since they require you to get up close and personal with the enemies if you want them to work. Lastly, though, you have a category of weapons that don’t fit in with the genre, but do fit in with the game’s off-the-wall sensibilities — things like cannon balls and gobs of mucus that are totally absurd, but work in the context of Shutshimi because it makes it clear from the get-go that it’s willing to go wherever its insane muse takes it.

Shutshimi 1

Which, I think, is why I love it so much, despite my non-interest in shmups in general. Rather than trying to fit itself into a specific genre category, Shutshimi aims to make the existing genre fit around it. It’s a bold statement to make, but it’s one that the game’s developers are able to pull off with aplomb.

Grade: A-