There’s a lot of games to check out over the next few days! We’ve got PC ports, caveman FPS adventures and, of course, the odd visual novel or two. On the menu today we’re going to be looking at something a little more serious: a shooter where you play as a bodybuilding fish. I know that’s a pretty crowded genre, so let me clarify that today we’re looking at Shutshimi: Seriously Swole, in particular the Wii U version.
Here’s the elevator pitch for this one: you’re a fish with giant human arms who blasts other wildlife in increments of ten seconds. Yeah. Shutshimi feels a bit like a cross between WarioWare and your average shmup. It’s a bizarre combination, but at the same time it’s one that actually works. “Here’s how I know Shutshimi is a great game,” said another review of this game, “because I really, really enjoyed it.” Well, that’s it, folks, let’s pack it in, I’m not going to be able to compete with that level of prose.
Alright, I guess we’ll go into detail here. You’ve got your bodybuilding fish with a standard peashooter and are pitted against a bunch of baddies out for fish fillet. One shot kills you, so it’s important to play safe. The shooting action is fairly standard aside from the wave mechanic, which we’ll discuss in a bit; early on it’s not nearly as hard as your average bullet hell game, so you shouldn’t have trouble making progress. Boss fights also show up every so often as well, though these are also subject to the wave mechanic and as such might take you several battles before you can finish them off for good.
So about that wave thing: every ten seconds the action pauses and you’re given another ten seconds to choose from several upgrades. As mentioned, this occurs even if you’re in the middle of a boss fight, at which point the boss will abscond and you’ll have to finish their remaining life bar at a later point. Some of these are positive, ranging from a shield of smaller fish to enlarging your fish and making it capable of taking an extra hit. Some are downgrades, like flipping the entire screen upside down. Some are just plain weird, like removing the combat element of the next ten-second wave and replacing it with playing around in a bouncy castle. Yeah, this is that kind of game.
It’s a pretty simple concept that becomes a little more interesting as you play on. For instance, the text descriptions of what the upgrades actually do are actually quite detailed and hilarious if you take the time to read them…which you shouldn’t, because you only have ten seconds to pick one! Initially the key terms in the descriptions are highlighted to help you pick something useful, but that’s removed pretty quickly and you’re forced to rapidly skim. There are icons you can use to help you pick useful upgrades, but these are randomized with each game and as such aren’t immediately useful. There are also numerous customization options like fish colors and hats, as well as several difficulty levels to futz around with, which suits the game’s replayable style.
Shutshimi actually looks pretty nice for what is, at its core, Yet Another Pixel Art Indie Game. No complaints about how it plays either, though I suppose your fish could stand to swim a little faster without upgrades. The enemy designs are interesting as well, ranging from laser sharks to what I think are sloths bouncing around the area. This is one of those games that aims for humor, and unlike some others it actually works – you’d expect this sort of game to be packed with groanworthy memes but generally Shutshimi shies away from those. I got a particular kick when I noticed that one of the upgrade descriptions talked about producing the upgrade by “putting the ‘fun’ back in crowdfunding.”
Shutshimi: Seriously Swole is available on pretty much everything at this point, so if you don’t have a Wii U you can still get in on the flexing fish action; the game doesn’t really utilize any of the console’s gimmicks anyway. It’s definitely worth a look, even if you’re not particularly a fan of the bodybuilding fish genre; the upgrade mechanic keeps the action fresh. That’s important; as we know, there aren’t many things worse than fish that isn’t fresh.