Shantae Half Genie Hero appears to be coming along nicely. WayForward provided a preview build featuring three playable levels to early-access level Kickstarter backers. The demo is brief, and specifically adjusted to avoid any possible spoilers, but its contents are solid.
Shantae Half Genie Hero will feature platforming action as the titular Shantae runs, jumps, whips at obstacles with her hair, and dances to transform into different creatures with their own sets of abilities.
Before going into detail of the three, distinct levels that it features, I want to mention that screenshots don’t do the demo justice. The visual effects and music already in place for Shantae Half Genie Hero are excellent in their current state. Even the title screen features nice atmospheric effects with the sun occasionally obscured by the passing clouds, and sitting through the electronically orchestrated ballad has it give way at the 3:20 mark to the fast, vocalized, very catchy pop version of the theme heard in the Kickstarter video. Within the levels, the animation is fluid with the environment, enemies, and Shantae in her various forms moving and swaying in ways that make it all feel very alive. Smacking enemies with her hair and sending them flying with small explosions feels wonderfully satisfying.
The first of the three demo levels for Shantae Half Genie Hero features jungle ruins and Shantae’s monkey transformation. Mermaids and crabs appear across the platforms to hinder her progress. Shantae’s monkey form doesn’t permit her to attack, but she is able to grab onto walls and more easily scale heights, in addition to looking rather adorable. The very end of the level features a glimpse of what appear to be other genies held in cages and being pulled deeper into the environment.
Shantae Half Genie Hero‘s second demo level is a desert with sandstorms that require finding or creating cover to avoid being swept away, deep pools, and enemies resembling mobile cacti, armored birds, piranha, urchins, and burrowing sand worms. Shantae’s crab transformation, like the monkey, doesn’t allow her to attack, but she can crouch to shield herself from harm and freely navigate underwater passages. Scaling the platforms sometimes requires using the heavy winds to your advantage.
The third level in the Shantae Half Genie Hero demo has Shantae sliding down a long ramp on rollers, requiring careful maneuvering and timed jumps to avoid rolling containers, gaps in the expanse, and explosive fish thrown at her by hard-helmeted gators. This stage lacks an animal transformation due to her inability to stand still and dance, but her unique sliding sprites and the nature of the stage design are plenty. Objects zipping by in the foreground add quite a bit to the challenge as they have a tendency to appear just as you’re lining up a jump. Impressively, her sprites also change throughout the level to give the impression of being shadowed by the occasional foreground trees. The animation team really put a lot of consideration into everything.
The Shantae Half Genie Hero E3 Demo Backer Build carries the warning that it is a work-in-progress and that the actual product may vary, and they are themselves billing the experience as beta quality. But what I saw and played is very promising. If the final game keeps this pace with exotic, colorful levels with their own unique playstyles and hazards, platforming fans have a lot to look forward to from WayForward.
A preview copy was provided for this article.