Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Review Date: 6/27/20
Shantae and her friends are invited to a tropical island for a half-genie festival. It's Shantae's very first vacation and she's super excited about getting to meet other half-genies. Unfortunately, while the half-genies are performing on stage, all of them except Shantae mysteriously vanish! Something fishy is going on, and Shantae sets out to find the missing half-genies. There's a lot more to the island than meets the eye, and there's an entire sunken city underneath it. Not surprisingly, long-time antagonist Risky Boots is involved and wants to pillage the sunken city for her own nefarious purposes.
It's a delightfully fun and colorful game that uses the same aesthetic presentation as the previous "Shantae: Half-Genie Hero" (2016). The characters are cute and charming, and Shantae is as exuberant as ever. The gameplay remains the same, and in addition to Shantae's default hair-whip attack, she can learn a whole new set of magical dances and fusion forms that allow her to jump, swim, climb, burrow, and smash her way through obstacles. The difficulty is easy to moderate and similar to "Half-Genie Hero," meaning that it provided just the right amount of challenge for me. I managed to finish the story in a little over thirteen hours, but only found 75% of its collectibles. The rest are deeply hidden and require you to traverse the entire map multiple times with all of your powers. Thankfully, some of the more punishing areas have shortcuts that you can use to bypass them. The only real disappointment with the difficulty is that gems are just a little too easy to collect, which means that you run out of items to spend them on about half-way through the game.
The game looks fantastic and includes some animated cutscenes this time around, which are a nice addition to the presentation. Unfortunately, just like the previous entries, the game is only partially voiced with brief and awkward sound clips that usually don't match what the characters are saying. It's too bad, because the voice acting is quite good and I like listening to Shantae's voice. The writing is on par with the rest of the series and full of playful sexiness, clever self-awareness, and pop culture meta humor. Squid Baron returns as an alpha nerd who collects action figures, and his antics are quite amusing. The music is appropriately upbeat, although not quite as engaging as Jake Kaufman's work on the series. He was reportedly unavailable for the project this time. Just like "Half-Genie Hero," this game came out of nowhere and I had no idea it was even in development until a week before it was released. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, and its light-hearted and good-natured tone was a wonderful distraction during these troubling times.