Wot I Think: Adventures Of Shuggy

By John Walker on June 13th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Shuggy, meet Shuggy.

David Johnston, the man behind Smudged Cat Games, caught our attention with the absolutely fantastic forthcoming Gateways. However, his previous game, Adventures Of Shuggy, is reaching the PC today via Steam. More mind-bending 2D puzzling, but this time without a magic gun. I took a look to find out Wot I Think.

“OH NO! I’ve touched myself!” I shouted out to a thankfully empty house. For in the Adventures Of Shuggy, such activities are frowned upon. It causes a temporal paradox you see, when you make contact with a past version of yourself.

But that’s not what the game’s about. It’s part of what the game’s about, but just one of very many different devices that come into play in its remarkable array of puzzles. Along with looping time travel, there’s alsosize-changing, multiple incarnations (playing with yourself, clearly), rope-swinging, teleporting, room-rotating, and many others. Which makes for a constantly changing set of challenges, each of which wants you to collect all the green jewels from a particular room.

This is why we shouldn't meddle with time travel.

You play as an extremely cute vampire bat, the eponymous Shuggy, exploring a spooky old mansion for… I’ve forgotten why, it’s not important. The game’s made up of five main areas, each of which contains around 24 levels of various types, with a number open at any time to attempt. Succeed and you can see your time on a shared leaderboard via Steam, while opening up a bunch more rooms to try.

What’s most impressive here is the constant variety. Even levels that use the same mechanic always up the ante, or remix how it works. When you first encounter the mind-bending time travel levels you’re doing not much more than holding down a button for a future version of yourself. (Let me try to explain that better. In these levels there’s a click that counts down about 20 seconds. Once that time is up, whatever you did for the last 20 seconds is repeated by a ‘ghost’ of yourself, while you carry on setting out what the next looped version will be repeating.) Halfway through the game you’re dealing with six or seven repeats of yourself all working together, while studiously avoiding allowing any of them to bump into each other. This is rather splendidly aided by a purple line that extends from each Shuggy, showing the path it’s about to take, but of course still means quite carefully planning ahead about where you can stand to ensure you’ll be able to move past previous versions of you, and still being able to reach buttons, or gems, you’ve yet to collect.

Really, if the game were just made up of this mechanic we’d have something rather lovely, but perhaps a little overwhelming. Fortunately, these toughest levels are balanced out by some requiring nothing much more than timing and platforming skill, others that challenge you to negotiate complicated, enemy-filled screens using a long rope that wraps around the scenery, some that need you to shepherd strange bug-beasts around the screen by repelling them from you, others still that want you to drink various potions that shrink or grow you to reach various switches, and yet more that have multiple incarnations of Shuggy that can be switched between, requiring them to work together to complete tasks. (And when you’re switching between different sized versions.)

Oh, and the levels where you can rotate the entire screen, then later quarters of the screen, or only when you reach a certain spot that lets the screen rotate. Or when you’re given a teleport, meaning you can trap yourself in areas, only if you’ve pre-planned this and put down your way out in advance. Or the ones I haven’t discovered yet, because the two days I’ve been playing this hasn’t allowed me time to finish it. It’s big and involved. Am I communicating that? IT’S BIG AND INVOLVED!

It’s also extremely charming. Pleasingly not using retro-pixels, it presents a very clear, clean 2D world with cute cartoon detail. The enemies all manage to be appealing and threatening at the same time, and Shuggy himself is just adorable. Lovely details like how a level’s characters explode into green blobs when you fail – except for Shuggy who shatters into a cloud of bats – add a great deal, especially when it all happens in reverse as a level is reset. And it’s extremely well ported, too. Running neatly in a window, or in fullscreen, the lack of resolution options is a shame, but the ability to switch between a 360 pad and the keyboard is seamless. On screen instructions switch over the moment you press either – something most AAA releases still don’t get right.

You can see the gestation for a lot of ideas that I think Gateways is going to get even more right. But that doesn’t mean Shuggy is just a stepping stone. It’s a squillion really smartly created levels, along with a bunch more designed for co-op, with neatly integrated Steam-based scoreboards, all of which are very deserving of your time. It’s a constantly smart, often extremely tricky puzzle platformer, of the highest standard.

Adventures Of Shuggy comes out on Steam later today, and only costs $8. Or you can get a DRM-free version from the developer for $10, along with a Steam code.

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22 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge RaveTurned says:

    Best. Opening Line. Ever.

    *goes to read the rest of the article*

    Edit: *comes back*

    Sounds great, but when I went to add it to my Steam wishlist I couldn’t find a page for it. :s Will one be appearing shortly, or is this a region-related thing? I’m in the UK, if that helps.

    Maybe I’d do better getting it straight from the devs as MD mentions below.

    • drlemon says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjkWUTBDAPY

      Noo! Don’t touch yourself!

    • SmudgedCat says:

      I’ve been told the game should launch at 10am PST which seems to be 6pm in Blighty. So, about 2 and a half hours from now. Of course if you buy it from the website (www.smudgedcat.com/shuggy.htm) now then I’ll give you your Steam code and you can play it before it’s actually released! :)

      • Premium User Badge RaveTurned says:

        It appeared, hurrah!

        Though if I can get a steam code when buying from the developer, I’ll probably do that instead. :)

        Edit: Just realised you are the developer! Your game looks interesting, I look forward to playing it soon. :)

  2. MD says:

    Looks great. You can get it DRM-free from the developer for $10, and they’ll also send you a Steam code on request. http://www.smudgedcat.com/shuggy.htm
    ($10 is more than $8, I know, but DRM-free + most of the money going straight to the developer will make it worthwhile for some people.)
    PS, if John actually posted that link somewhere and I missed it, I apologise in advance for making him sad :(

    • trjp says:

      It’s not necessarily true that more money will go to the developer by buying direct – most developers use third-party card processors/cart/storefronts who charge fees – often bigger fees than Steam would…

      I’ve no idea what sort of %s are involved here (only the developer does and he’s not allowed to tell people) but it’s especially true of cheaper titles because a lot of processors/carts/storefronts have a minimum fee per transaction which quickly becomes a big % of a cheaper item…

      Just FYI – nothing is as it appears and all that.

      • MondSemmel says:

        That’s true. This game, though, apparently uses the Humble Store, i.e. the thing run by the Humble Bundle guys. I have no idea what kind of conditions they offer, though, but that makes me more optimistic than other scenarios might.

      • larsiusprime says:

        Hey, I’m a developer who sells direct, so maybe I can weigh in on this.

        The most popular direct payment distribution systems take around a flat 8% of the sale. He’s using the Humble Store, so I don’t know what their exact fees are, but I’m sure they’re competitive with BMT Micro and FastSpring (I use FastSpring) or he wouldn’t be using them.

        Word on the street is that Steam charges between 20-30%.

        So, let’s round up to 10% for direct and assume Steam is only 20%, that means:
        Direct at $10 = $9 net
        Steam at $8 = $6.4 net

        Even in this “worst case scenario” he gets more money from direct sales.

        At any rate, on Steam the name of the game is to make things up in volume, since he’ll likely sell anywhere between 100 and 1000 times more on that service than direct.

        • trjp says:

          Sales tax needs to be factored into that, of course – esp for developers in the EU where the whole sales tax issue can get a bit thorny (esp as some services ‘absorb’ it – e.g. pass the loss onto the developer I guess!?)

          Of course being on Steam is a massive earner for any developer – it would be churlish to knock their rates when they create HUGE sales for people – but I just wanted to highlight that buying ‘direct’ does not always mean the developer gets more of your money.

          • InventiveDingo says:

            Hi, I’m another developer, who sells both direct and on Steam :)

            In my case, and I suspect all cases, direct sales definitely give a higher profit per sale. If that wasn’t the case, then I wouldn’t bother to have a direct store! Any sensible developer would do the same, so I would say it’s a pretty safe bet that developers would prefer you to buy direct if they give you the choice.

            (The only other reason to have a direct store is to distribute a DRM-free version, but there are other distributors who will do that for you, and spare you the effort.)

          • trjp says:

            On the sales tax thing, online services are often based in tax havens which reduces their liability to pay sales tax (or even removes it entirely).

            So when they sell a game for £10 – that’s £10 they take and if their share is 30%, that’s £7 left for the developer.

            If the developer sells it direct, they’ll have to collect the sales tax (20% in my case) which means if they sell a game for £10, they’ll need to drop their price to £8.33-or-less to compensate for that. Some don’t, of course, but nothing makes me less likely to buy a game when VAT gets stuck on at the end of the cart process – tax-inclusive pricing is a very, very good idea and when you factor in fees after the taxes, the developer has made pennies for his efforts…

  3. Maldomel says:

    Intriguing, I’ll probably pick it up when I get the time.

  4. Soapeh says:

    I bought in to the Gateways beta and thoroughly enjoyed the mind-bending nature of the game (although I still can’t solve what I assume is the final puzzle). Will definitely pick this up too.

  5. baby snot says:

    David has a postmortem of the development of Shuggy over on Gamasutra. I was under the impression there was a more detailed post mortem by David (or interview) floating around somewhere but either my google fu is off tonight or I’m imagining it.

    Was hoping you’d do a WIT of this since the semi-related forum post on Gateways. Can’t wait to play.

  6. trjp says:

    I tried this on the 360 and whilst the puzzles appealed, the controls were – well, how can I put this – shit.

    I take it we have something better worked-out for the PC – because a big part of the ‘difficulty’ of the trial on 360 was fighting the controller/the way your character moved as a result…

    • John Walker says:

      I played with a 360 controller on PC, and found the controllers to be great.

      • trjp says:

        That’s good to know – my memory of the 360 demo was of controls which were very ‘inertia laden’ (see also the RAGE demo) – certainly the levels in the demo were made hard by the controls rather than the content.

        I should probably try this tho – there was definately something under that layer which seemed intriguing…

  7. Premium User Badge Sinomatic says:

    The description of both this and Gateways has my two braincells cowering in a corner of my skull. This may well have something to do with the fact that the one time I tried Braid I just could not make it work for the life of me, and I gave up feeling incredibly stupid. Even though I know it was in all likelihood just a bad day, the feeling of idiocy it invoked was so strong that I’ve become wary of anything that sounds more complicated than your average platformer.

    They sound so bloody interesting though.

    Will there be a demo (so I can make myself feel thick for free), do you know?

  8. Kdansky says:

    Too many puzzle platformers. Yes, it’s not a bad genre, but every second indie game seems to fall into it.

  9. msarge says:

    Mmm, Shuggy’s graphics are much more appealing to my pallet than Gateway’s.

  10. SmudgedCat says:

    The game has now launched on Steam

  11. pertusaria says:

    Just played the first few levels of the demo (even the demo seems huge) and decided I’ll buy it. The walking on the ceiling level was pleasingly reminiscent of one of the Commander Keens for me.