Published on March 26th, 2022 | by Zorbz

Review: Sifu

Sifu is an action beat em up that happens to be the developer ‘Sloclap’ second game with their previous release being ‘Absolver’.
Without a huge resume of games behind them, has the developer been able to live up to the hype surrounding this game? Let’s jump in.

Story/Concept: Sifu is a traditional story of revenge; your father dies by the hands of his top student, and you are seemingly killed as well (more on this in a moment). The story unfolds as you track down the main enemy ‘Yang’ and his 4 followers that were with him on the night of your father’s murder.

The story unfolds as you play through the levels and delves into who these characters really are, as well as their motivations.
The concept is actually really cool, every time you die, you respawn in the exact same spot; however, you age a year. This can stack meaning that if you die twice in a row, you with then age by 2 years each time and should you die 9 times without obtaining a decrease in your age counter then it will increase by 9 years and so forth.

You start the game at age 20, and for every 10 years you grow older, your character will show signs of aging as well as gaining strength but losing some of his/her health meter. You can also be locked out of certain upgrades should you not have obtained them before you hit a certain age milestone.

This whole concept fits in with the narrative as I mention earlier you seemingly die at the start; however, your character is holding onto magical beads when he/she is slain that act as a resurrection stone in essence.

Graphics: The game is absolutely stunning. It has a simplistic art style that uses amazing art direction and exceptional use of colour, which really shows that sometimes less is more. This simplicity means that the game is easily able to run at native 4k without any stutters or hitches.

I love that every level is set in a completely different environment. You go from battling in run-down suburban housing to a huge nightclub, snow peaks, caves, and a peaceful monastery area.

The animation is fast and fluid, flowing exactly how you would want the characters to in a martial arts game.

Gameplay: Starting out, it feels like a classic 3D beat em up but with a heavy influence on parrying/dodging, ducking, etc. The camera sits behind and over the shoulder like a 3rd person action game, but as fights unfold, it pans out and gives you freedom to see all around as enemies will come from any angle to attack you and boy do they attack!

The enemies are ruthless and will not wait a turn like in most fighting games, but will all try to gang up on you, so parrying attacks from all angles is key because once someone hits you with an attack it can be hard to get your footing back if you’re being swarmed.

When first playing through I thought ‘ok this isn’t as hard as people are making this out to be at all’ however as the combat with enemies might be forgiving, it’s coming up to a boss where things change. Bosses are ruthless and will attack with sometimes no clear window to make your move. This is where your age will start gaining quickly. It’s always good to try out a level a few times as the age you complete the level at carries over to the next. If you finish level 1 at age 40, you’re going to have a tough time completing the rest of the game. Ideally, you want to finish each level with no more than ten deaths if you can because once you hit age 70, any death after that is game over.

Now, as a Roguelike game, there’s only certain permanent upgrades, but for the majority, most unlocks will only stay active for a current run.
Unfortunately, the permanent upgrades are not really helpful in the grand scheme of things except a slight few but nothing that will ever really change the tide of battles. What this means then is you’re going to really have to rely on timing your defence and learning when to attack.

I feel the games difficulty curve spikes way too high when it comes to boss battles and this, to me personally, was a real let down. I get that the game is meant to be difficult, but when I was able to breeze through levels only to be utterly crushed by bosses, it didn’t make too much sense. It would have made more sense to either tone down the boss difficulty or even up the difficulty of the levels themselves to give a more fair but sensible progression.

My other last gripe is the fact that the game is only 5 levels, which to me felt a bit like a cop out when charging between $50/60 at launch but relying on NES style difficulty to pad out the time spent with the game. There is a slight reason to do a second playthrough, but honestly, nothing really changes apart from an endgame story beat.

Sound: The voice acting in Sifu is well done, but it’s very sparse through the game as the focus is mainly on gameplay and not dialogue. The sound effects are great though and really help to create this feeling of hard-hitting action, it’s crazy how good sound effects can actually make a punch or kick feel different, I urge everyone to try play the game muted for a few mins to see what I mean.

The music is also quite good too and fits the atmosphere/overall mood of the game; however, there’s nothing memorable to mention.

Awesomeness: Unfortunately, this game for me personally is a one and done. Once I finished it there was not really any reason to go back and play it again. The pure frustration of boss battles left a sour taste in my mouth and something I didn’t find fun or satisfying once I defeated them. I feel like the only people who will find enjoyment replaying this over and over would be speedrunners.

Final word: Sifu is a hard one to recommend as on one hand I really love the art direction and gameplay during levels, but those boss battles are just rage inducing. If you’re a fan of brutally challenging games, then sure you might enjoy it, but then there’s the issue of how short the game is. There is silver lining with the developers mentioning an upcoming easy mode, but again, it might make the game more fun, but will make the game a lot quicker to progress through, highlighting the lack of content available.

In closing I would say when the game drops in price this will be one to check out and if you’ve got a choice on platform to play on then I would recommend it on PC as the modding community have already made some cool character swaps and tweaks to overall speed of the game and other quality of life improvements.

Review: Sifu Zorbz

Out of 5 Bugs!

Concept/Story
Graphics
Gameplay
Sound
Awesomeness

Summary:

3.3


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