August 25, 2015 6:30 AM | Joel Couture
Disclosure: Anthony Swinnich, one of IndieGames.com's editors, worked on Shutshimi: Seriously Swole.
Mixing tense shmup gameplay and high-speed reading comprehension action, Shutshimi: Seriously Swole is built to push mind and body to their limits. Still, the same could be said of the last release of the game. What new swoleness has been brought to this version? More bosses. More hats. More music. More weirdness. Swole in content and in arm, the cigar-chomping goldfish is ready to blast every last one of these wacky creatures from his ocean home. He just might be a little fuzzy on the details when it's all over.
Being a goldfish, our hero has a lousy memory. It can only recall about ten seconds worth of stuff, so each stage only lasts the same amount of time. This works well in a couple of ways. For starters, no matter how bad things get, as a player, you know you only have to last a short time. There's even a timer listing exactly how much longer you have to dodge around. So, even if a wave is particularly dangerous, you feel that you can outlast it. Secondly, as a developer, when your level is only ten seconds long, you try not to waste the player's time. There's few quiet moments or filler enemy groups - it's right into relentless dodging and frantic gunfire. Shutshimi doesn't screw around, if only because it doesn't have time to.
It takes time to be goofy, though, in case you couldn't figure that out from the main character's design. Everything from enemy designs to weapons to abilities are all built to maximize silliness, making it hard not to smile even as your fish is dying a horrible death. You're attacked by cats in submarines, sharks in sunglasses firing (frickin) laser beams, scuba diving bears, reverse mermen, and just a ton of absurd enemies. If it's not the enemies making you crack up, it's the hats. Why just shoot undersea beasts when you could do it while wearing a fat cat on your head? A cap that makes you think of trucks and country music? One that fills the screen with confetti and bursts of light, making it abundantly clear that it's party time? Every item and moment in Shutshimi is ridiculous, and with all of the new things added to this edition, it's ridiculous in brand new ways for a very long time.
Even the gameplay can't keep a straight face. Just when you think it's only about shooting enemies, the game checks your reading skills. Between every stage, you're given a choice of one of three power-ups. The game shows a pictures of each of them, and gives a short description.
The thing is, the pictures don't tell you what the power-up does. (CORRECTION: The pictures DO tie in to the item, in that the cassette is always a hat, mushroom is always shotgun, etc...) So, you have to read the description, which is often a rambling wall of absurd text. Buried somewhere within that text is a short blurb that tells you what the item actually does. Thing is, you only have a few seconds to choose, so you need to get good at skimming and finding pertinent details. Power-downs are hidden alongside the power-ups, so if you grab the wrong thing, expect to get screwed in the next stage.
The mixture of fast combat and quick reading makes for a game where you're always scrambling. It's a pleasant kind of frantic, where it feels like you're always being pushed to give your all. There are no quiet moments of boredom, and few where the game isn't demanding all your attention and skill. Given that things are so quick, it's hard to put down, too, as it's very easy to start just one more round. Play one more wave. You can be several stages into the game within a minute, so why not pick it up and play it for a bit if you've only got five minutes before work? Why not squeeze in one more round before bed? It's instantly gratifying, satisfying needs for great gameplay and solid humor in seconds.
If you need even more reasons to keep booting up the game, the dozens of hats, many of which change the game in significant ways,should do it. The hats provide a lot of entertainment, changing the game in extreme ways. Some give you new attacks, like firing blobs of goo or launching a slug cat from your head. You could also go Supersalmon, growing a mane of glowing blonde hair as your damage increases. The combat effects are nice bonuses, but it's hats like the foam dome (which messes with your view) or the clown hat (which makes your shots burst with confetti) that make for a lot of fun. There are a whole lot more of them in this release than in the last game, adding all kinds of goofy abilities, helpful or not. These powers can do just about anything, so if you have the option to grab a hat, the answer should always be yes.
More music and stages have also been added to this release. You'll fly through forests at night, cloudy skies, a bouncy castle, and all manner of places that don't make any sense for a fish but that just kinda work in Shutshimi. The tunes are equally outlandish, being far catchier than ten second songs should have a right to be. Music was one of my biggest worries going into a game with ten seconds stages, but the tracks in Shutshimi are all explosions of cheer and excitement, hitting your eardrums hard and fast. They're infectious in their upbeat happiness, and, like the game's stages, don't waste any time getting good. You just have audio goodness in your ears the moment you're firing.
The silliest of moments are best shared with friends, though, which is where the game's four player local co-op comes in. It would seem that adding three more gun-toting fish would make the game easier, but Shutshimi provides so many opportunities to screw your buds that, unless you agree to work together, you'll all be dead before long. You bounce off of each other should you run into each other, meaning you can easily bump a friend into an oncoming enemy. You all have control in the power-up choosing round, meaning you'll all likely be screaming as the indicator flies across each power-up as you all fight for control. Even if you get your friends killed so they stop bugging you, their ghost can inflict you with a sickness that temporarily slows you down. It's the kind of multiplayer where everyone is laughing, yet borderline homicidal as you make a feeble attempt to beat the game. It's kinda perfect for a room filled with your drunk jerk buddies.
Shutshimi was a great game on its own, but all of the touch ups, visual improvements, and new additions make Shutshimi: Seriously Swole the definitive shotgun-wielding goldfish game. It takes the strong gameplay Neon Deity Games created and just refines and improves it, giving you a whole lot more game to play and a whole lot more goofiness to discover. It's an unending treasure trove of laughter and frantic fun - a perfect way to slap a smile on your face in seconds.
Shutshimi: Seriously Swole is available for $9.99 on Steam and PS4/Vita. For more information on the game and Neon Deity Games, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on Google +, YouTube, and Twitter.