REVIEW – Sloclap’s game is not for everyone. It’s a creation that expects perfection, but in return, the feeling of using kung-fu properly can give the player immense satisfaction if they can hone their skills. However, the road to perfection is long, and many people may abandon their studies: perfection is like an old katana, it requires precision and hard work, but in return, the experience will be lasting.
And like a great metaphor, Sifu leaps off the ground in fashion.
Not all beginnings are difficult
The prologue will be misleading because this section is mainly about building up your immersion and the level of problems your opponent will cause you later on. Here, Sloclap might remind us of one of their previous games, Absolver, but they’ve gone up a level, focusing on the core, main elements; the experience is… shall I say, thick (and surprisingly rhythmical, but only if you’ve mastered Sifu), but the five distinct areas and their bosses will make your life miserable. But I have to go back to the prologue for a moment: the basics of gameplay are learned here, and I think the game perfectly captures the idea of easy basics requiring serious learning for professionalism. (Such is the case with Elasto Mania Remastered, by the way; I mean, the sound quality is the same, and I’m happy to announce that it kept that bubbly fail sound effect!)
Then, the real adventure begins. We choose the gender of our hero, and then we don’t say no to the gameplay because the combination of beat’em up elements and roguelike is undoubtedly not a bad idea. The game will always outpower you, and I could even use Sifu as an example of my own life: it’s the story of the underdog who is always overlooked. But the trump card is there in the combat system. You have to be great at using your defensive and offensive moves, and they should certainly be combined. You can’t be a turtle all the time (in fighting games, this word is slang for only being offensive when the opponent is “open”) because you also have to dodge attacks. Parrying will also be a lifesaver many, many times.
Let’s start by sizing up our opponents. We need to know when to react and how to react, and to do this, we need to improvise so that our strategic, tactical advantage will ultimately keep us on our feet. And the artificial intelligence will show no mercy because our opponents will constantly be looking for the opportunity to strike us like Garfield tends to slap those spiders in his comic strips. But if you can get into a rhythm with combos of light and heavy attacks, that can feel pretty good. In simulators, you often hear that you have to get the rhythm to get a good lap time. That idea is accurate here: if you start to feel comfortable with Sifu and come prepared, you will begin to unleash some beauty… if you dare to stay onboard for long enough.
…and not all continuations are easy
As we age over time (yes, that’s part of Sifu), we’ll get to grips with a combat system which I’d happily describe as dynamic and spectacular, however difficult it may be. I don’t call it a negative of the game. The developers themselves have designed their product in this way, so it would be a shame to blame it as a problem, but let’s not forget that we lose a year for every death. The effect of this is that our attacks will be more powerful, but we will also be more exposed to the attacks of our opponents so that we will be more and more of a glass cannon. We can offset the effects of our age by defeating mini-bosses or bosses on the stage or spending XP in the rare shrines that pop up. And don’t forget the green dragon statues, where you can temporarily improve your skills and abilities… and you will never be genuinely overpowered. By the way, with our age, we can fill the skill tree with twenty-five skills nicely, and we can play tactically to get a new skill for less XP or learn a new move that affects the game as a whole for much more. So you may never acquire specific skills.
I will mention a few negatives here, though. The graphics aren’t (a bit minimalistic, but purposeful) bad. Still, the camera work has become problematic here and there, and the story and characters don’t push the envelope that much either. Because of these things, we won’t be seriously immersed in Sifu, which despite its linearity, has branches here and there to expand the backstory for us, plus there will be some clues to open up previously closed off areas.
Overlooked by many, enjoyed by a lot
Sifu will not become a serious mainstream release (but it might be worth getting it on disc in May, courtesy of Microids). However, it’s still a winner because although it’s a relentless creation, it’s audiovisually clean, its gameplay is refined, and its handling is excellent. And that speaks for itself, and for that, it rightly deserves an eight and a half out of ten. It could have reached a nine out of ten if its story had received a little more care, but even then, an 8.5/10 score is still nothing to scoff at.
+ The game has some slick mechanics
+ Easy to control, but mastering it requires a lot of effort
+ Clean audiovisuals
– The camera tends to be trash here and there
– Perhaps it lacks depth due to its plot and characters
– I can’t come up with another negative, so let’s just say you have to wait until May to get a retail copy
Publisher: Sloclap (physical edition handled by Microids)
Publication: February 8, 2022