Everyone's favourite purple-haired half-genie is back for yet another wacky adventure. This time around, she has more transformations than you can shake a magic lamp at. The question is: are you up for a shape-shifting good time?
Half-Genie Hero is Shantae's fourth game and thankfully, it should be very familiar to any fan of the series. The gameplay is full of 2D platforming action with simple controls that tie it all together. You run, jump, and whip your hair to attack (of course) but you can also unleash a variety of spells and transform into an impressive amount of different creatures. These transformations include a monkey, crab, mermaid, elephant, harpy, spider, mouse, bat, blobfish, and dryad. Each one has its own gameplay style such as the monkey being agile and able to cling to walls, the elephant can crash through thick rocks, and the harpy allows Shantae to fly freely around stages. On top of that, a few extra dances help her heal on the spot, perform a devastating magic attack, and warp past previously completed areas. Throw in a handful of spells and additional unlockable abilities and you're left with one healthy arsenal of moves. Shantae has never been this capable which makes Half-Genie Hero an incredibly satisfying experience.
Visually, this iteration of Shantae's universe is rendered in a mix of 3D and 2D graphics that combine to make a rather pleasing style. The world is as vibrant as you'd expect yet the added 3D elements make the visuals pop in a way that they haven't before. The soundtrack is fantastic, too, with many upbeat tracks including one with very catchy vocals. Most importantly, the humour is as silly as ever. Reading off-the-wall conversations will often make you laugh out loud and you'll also come across a bunch of references to games such as Mega Man 8. Overall, Half-Genie Hero's lovable world will easily appeal to fans and newcomers alike.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero's campaign consists of five stages plus a town and a final area. That may not seem like much, but the stages are impressively lengthy and full of a variety of action segments that keep the gameplay exciting. One moment, you're jumping on disappearing platforms while the next, you're battling a gang of pirates. Like other Shantae games, there are loads of fetch-quests that may advance the story or provide you with some valuable goodies. Exploring each stage while finding necessary key items is made even more fun when you consider how many treasures and secrets there are to uncover. You can play the same stage a dozen times and still find something new. That being said, do you really want to play the same thing over again that many times?
That's right; you're going to find yourself backtracking a lot as you progress through Half-Genie Hero's story. Considering there are only a handful of stages, doing so gets rather tedious after a while. You could warp past areas that you've already beat but doing so may result in you overlooking a nook or cranny that's necessary to advance the plot. Backtracking is made even more infuriating by the fact that you often don't know exactly what to do next. There's a lady in a bath house who gives you hints but these are frequently too generic or you've already done them yet she still offers the same hints. Finally, I found Half-Genie Hero to be Shantae's easiest game by far. The lack of challenge is mostly due to how quickly powerful you become (do you really need 14 heart containers?). It's one of those games that's more challenging at the beginning than it is at the end which makes it a less satisfying adventure than it should be.
Unfortunately, Half-Genie Hero isn't Shantae's finest moment but that doesn't mean that it isn't a great game. Any 2D platformer fan should definitely pick it up as it's one of the genre's best. I can't wait to see what Shantae has in store for her fifth game!
- + Classic Shantae gameplay with loads of transformations and abilities to master
- + Delightful visuals, music, and humour
- + Tons of secrets and treasures to uncover
- - Backtracking through the same handful of stages gets quite tedious
- - Unclear objectives can be frustrating
- - Overall lack of challenge