Shu is a platformer in the great tradition of the Mario’s and Rayman’s of the wider gaming world. It marries stunning visuals with original storytelling to create a distinctive and enjoyable gaming experience available on Steam, PS4 and as of January this year; Nintendo Switch. One thing it has which the little Italian plumber doesn’t however is that is was born and bred in the great North-East of England at Coatsink studios.
In some ways this feels like a seismic achievement - and it certainly is a huge feather in Coatsink’s and the region’s cap, but given the growth of the digital sector particularly in Teeside (where Coatsink was founded) this is becoming the new normal in the best possible way. When we look at the North-East industries, coal and shipbuilding have been replaced by digital start ups to create one of the most exciting and progressive small business economies in Europe. Coatsink creating a game for PS4 and Switch isn’t a peak but rather a step up a tall ladder, with the company more than doubling their team in the past year or so.
Coal and shipbuilding have been replaced by digital start ups to create one of the most exciting small business economies in Europe
Perhaps that is what makes Shu such an interesting game for me personally, not so much to see the North East games scene on the prestige gaming marketplaces but rather to enjoy something in the moment which I believe we can look back on with interest when the company has grown into something even greater. I mean why not? Why can’t Shu be Coatsink’s Urban Chaos: Riot Response, which we look back at with interest after an Arkham Knight?
With the game, it’s not something that people won’t have encountered before but there’s a lot to be said about doing something well. Shu allows the player to grow with the game and indulges in its own story, mythology and storyworld physics. You perform the titular character as he saves his people from the encroaching darkness, leading them up the mountain to safety one jump at a time. Like a 21st Century version of the castle levels from Super Mario World, it’s about moving forwards and staying ahead of the literal shadow that bites at your heels. The design is stunning and the gameplay keeps it simple. It’s at once attractive, accessible and affordable - a throwback that thinks forward.
Like the castle levels from Super Mario World, it’s about moving forwards and staying ahead
Much like going to local galleries or checking out local music, I like to play local games to help support the region’s industries. Shu could’ve been 1-2 Switch and I would’ve bought it out of a sense of Northern duty, but thankfully it’s a world away from 1-2 and most else. It’s a great dip in-out game for casuals such as myself and is just absolutely gorgeous to look at and play. Coatsink have a growing catalogue of work in VR and have partnered up with Sheffield based Boneloaf on forthcoming macabremultiplayer Gang Beasts, but Shu is their prizefighter, and I’m very excited for how they plan to follow it up.