If you like your WTF with a side order of memes, and pop culture nods then you might just like Neon Deity Game's, "Shutshimi: Seriously Swole". Like Konami's 'Paroduis' (a Gradius Spin-off) you'll find an unlikely protagonist shooting unusual oddities in a fictional shmup driven environment. In the case of this particular indie shmup you'll play as what some journalists deem a "Reverse Mermaid". The creature in question is a fish with two buff arms in the place of fins. For whatever reason this guppy with a shotgun, and a cigar in his mouth has a beef with invaders who have invaded his oceanic paradise. That's all that's disclosed via intro plot text before you are thrust head first with no f**ks given into a series of wave based mini-game inspired modes that incorporate the usual shmup mechanics. Through the provided mode selection screen you'll enter an underwater world filled with creatures that ought not be there as well as some that will have you second guessing your current state of mind. The game doesn't take itself seriously, and plays on the memes, pop culture nods, and WTF inspirations of social media. In a way it's like a trend itself in that it bundles all the absurd worldly trends into one super wacky gaming package. Sure there's an actual game embedded in the nonsense, but it's more so a nod to nods.
Shutshimi, as I previously described is a game not unlike "Gradius", or more so "Parodius". It's what us shmup (shoot 'em up) enthusiasts call a 2D side-scrolling shooter. By that I simply mean the graphics are of a 2D pixel sprite design, and that the fish you'll be moving along in the seemingly side-scrolling environments will be advancing from left to right, and up and down through applied button presses as enemies come in from either side of the screen. Of course it goes without saying you'll also be blasting aquatic baddies with the guns that your fishy friend wields, and unlocks through continued gameplay. In Shutshimi's several modes of play you'll definitely not be piloting a traditional shmup ship, but will instead be leading the fishy musclebound protagonist on a wave by wave journey filled with fights against ocean, and non-ocean dwellers who have invaded said protagonist's home. The main menu that follows the the over-the-top text focused intro sequence disclosing the fish's predicament will gift you a nice variety of options including a tutorial that explains the control setup through visual diagrams, a "Guppy" mode for beginners, a "Normal" mode for those who are experienced with the genre, and later an unlockable "Heartless (Hard)" mode for those who are glutton for punishment as well as a "Boss Rush" mode with only the bosses available to defeat.
Whether you choose the 'Easy', 'Normal', or 'Hard' modes your main objective in "Shutshimi" will be to clear small waves of enemies, and eventually a final area boss within a set amount of time using your arsenal of weapons. While there's no penalty for not killing every onscreen enemy that appears you will lose out on the point scoring opportunities that are gifted for shooting down said enemies. Each type of enemy has it's own designated attack, and movement pattern as it would in a shmup of this type. It is important that you learn the patterns so you can kill enemies instead of dodge them, and miss out on points. As far as power-ups go Shutshimi deviates from the traditional shmup logic. Instead of picking up dropped power-ups from killed enemies you will be taken briefly to timed intermissions between waves of enemies that will allow you a choosing of one of three available power-ups. Some of which will last through the entirety of your playthrough, and others that are single wave items only. Each of which are marked accordingly through an accompanying mobius loop, or "1w" symbol. The power-up avatars, and accompanying description text underneath them will never outright tell you what they do, but through repeated choosing you will become accustom to what the effects of each power-up item are. All you really need to know is that the selection of power-ups will alter certain things in-game. They'll either alter the gun type, gun function, environment theme, or gift boosts to fish control, and fish function. There are even some power-up items that will take you straight to a boss battle unlocking it for the "Boss Rush" mode.
Along with these standard rules of gameplay you'll also have to mind your lives stock seeing as it is limited from the start. Lives definitely matter in the case of this game, and doing your best not to get hit by projectiles, or incoming enemies will increase the longevity of your playthrough. Something else I need to mention is that the three basic modes of play can be played in a four player co-op option that simply requires four controllers being activated, and present. The fish you can choose from while going solo, or along with friends only varies in color, and can be changed to your liking by entering the floating changing room in the center of the character select menu that is shown after you have chosen your difficulty mode. Initially only 'Easy', and 'Normal' modes of play will be available, but by achieving certain in-game goals you can unlock 'Hard' mode, or rather "Heartless" mode which will allow you only a single hit with which to make it to the end of the game. The game as a whole has plenty of achievements to unlock, and things to do as you complete the waves, and modes of play. The available achievements, and achievement requirements can be viewed in the provided "Extras" menu along with other extras that continue to give nods, and tribute material to pop culture, and memes of varying sorts.
Before I get to the explanation of what the "Extra" menu entails though let me explain "Boss Rush" mode for you guys, and gals. In Shutshimi's "Boss Rush" you'll face off against a series of bosses that you have unlocked from the base modes of play. There are basically three different bosses with different variations of each boss included in the mix. The bosses have specific, but randomly generated projectile, and attack patterns that will keep you on the move. As in the standard difficulty modes the bosses will only stay onscreen for a limited time before you are taken to a power-up intermission. This gives you a chance to power-up your fish, and be better suited to finish depleting the boss's onscreen health bar. Killing a boss in a single sequence isn't necessary, but will gift you bonus points in the standard difficulty based modes of play. As far as "Boss Rush" goes though everything is about survival, and is more akin to a time trial mode in that a timer counts up for as long as you do not get fatally wounded. Getting hit once without a fish bowl shield, or a guppy satellite power-up will end the game prematurely. In that sense the "Boss Rush" is a lot like the "Heartless (Hard)" difficulty mode. Only instead of score you'll be rewarded with a survival time that will be broadcast over the game's online leaderboard listings.
Back to the "Extras" ... Extras in this game definitely seem to be plentiful. Not only do you have your in-game achievements, but you also have a laid back party viewing mode filled with more visual f**kery, a full-fledged credits listing, star based achievements, and a "Chapeupedia" which showcases all the hats, hair styles, and accessories that you'll unlock through the appropriate intermission power-up selection. I think the hat that stands out to me the most from the "Chapeudeia" is the Guile (Street Fighter) hair style with American flag arm tattoo that causes a chip tune version of Guile's theme to play out in the background. There are all sorts of hidden meme material in the "Chapeupedia", and unlocking/using the hats in-game only serves to make the game more insane that it initially was. For those looking for actual PSN trophies you'll find those in place as well. They are not really hard to earn, and will add to your PSN trophie level. Beyond the wackiness, and absurdity that is "Shutshimi" I think the development team did well in making this a unique shmup experience. The fact that there's actual online leaderboards for each mode of play truly impresses me as that's the one important feature most indie shmup developers leave out. You can't have a proper modern-day shmup scoring experience without a fully functional online leaderboard. You just can't.
The Verdict ...
Though 'Shutshimi' might take the cake as one of the most abnormal shmups I've ever played, or reviewed It still does impressively well for itself in being functionally unique. It's the type of innovative game that will make you want to play again, and again without turning you away despite it's WTF nature. In a way it's a lot like some of those fabled Japanese only shmups we never get to see reach Western shores. For that alone I truly enjoyed being able to play through this indie game, and review it for my readers. A word of warning though to those of you who have seizures, or a family history of seizures. This game does house some flashy sequences that the game does not warn you about prior to getting into it. It's probably best if you have such a medical condition that you avoid this game entirely for safety's sake. If you are one of the lucky few like me who doesn't get affected by flashy things though then I think you might just enjoy this game, especially for it's insane themes, and nods! Also know that this game does have a cross-save feature, and that it is a cross-buy PSN game.