Rightly or wrongly, Ratalaika Games have made a bit of a name for themselves over the past few years, mostly for offering cheaper games with ridiculously easy Xbox achievements. Some of them have been good, plenty of them rough, and some are like Cyber Citizen Shockman. That being that this is the first time they have released outside of Asia.
In a gaming scene where preservation is currently a hot topic, their work at porting over niche or unheard of games to modern consoles should be commended. Regardless of the actual game itself…
Cyber Citizen Shockman is a one-two player 2D side-scrolling action game. It was previously only available in Japan under the name Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman that released in the late ‘80s.
In it, you can play as either Taskue or Kyapiko who have woken up one day and been turned into the titular Shockman. Thankfully, a friendly but slightly crazy Doc is able to help them see this cybernetic transforming as a positive. He may have also had something to do with your initial transformation, though. Using their newfound abilities for the power of good, they must take down the Evul Group. There is a twist though, they only have 18 days with which to stop them, restore peace to their town and become human again. It’s a tough ask.
After choosing your character – there are no differences between how either one plays – Cyber Citizen Shockman opens with a world map. Instantly, this feels like a bit of a big deal for a game as old as this. Here, you can choose which area of the town to save first.
There doesn’t appear to be any sense of easier or harder levels – they’re all varying degrees of difficult – but completing ones can reward you with different items. Saving the hospitals for example can heal you up fully, or even grant a health boost, whilst the bank can give you 2000 yen to help with your general costs of being Shockman.
These can all be found in the inventory screen in the bottom right but honestly, most of them don’t appear to make any difference.
Each area looks slightly different, but the gameplay is the same throughout with the same enemies spawning. For some reason, even in the quieter suburban sections, each level has a river of lava running through it. That’s not the worst thing though. That goes to the homing missiles that will fly from both sides of the screen and hit you often. Sometimes they are attached to the enemies that will fire them at you at point blank range, other times they just come at you from all angles.
The enemies are one thing, but the platforming is something else. That river of lava will quickly become your worst enemy as you fall into it again and again. Some of the jumps in Cyber Citizen Shockman are so precise that they would make even Crash Bandicoot cower in fear.
These jumps are exacerbated by Shockman’s slidy shoes. Their default pace is rather slow but that isn’t enough to require him to take just as long to slow down. When some jumps are required to be pixel perfect, this slippery slow down only makes things even more difficult.
There is a way around this though.
As with some of Ratalaika’s other previously Japanese-only releases, such as Moto Roader MC and Avenging Spirit, this is not just a simple port over to modern consoles. There is the ability to rewind should things go wrong, fast forward if you want to speedrun, save states, and take in a gallery to view artwork plus the game manual (in Japanese). There are also cheats hidden away in the options menu that allow you to toggle on and off invincibility and start the game with 9999 yen.
Best of all, or not depending on your views, these cheats don’t turn off the achievements either!
I’m not ashamed to admit that the invincibility cheat was invaluable. It was the difference between me being able to produce this review, or me going to the shops for a new controller and some poly-filler for the controller shaped holes in my walls.
The money cheat comes in handy too, sort of. With it, you can quickly buy the two upgrades in the shop and purchase hints so that you know which area you want to tackle next. But, 9999 yen is the max, go over that through picking up the drops from enemies, and you will reset this number, leaving you at more of a disadvantage. Particularly when healing up after a failed level, each time the Doc needs to heal you it was cost a chunk of change.
For a game as old as Cyber Citizen Shockman, it has some novel ideas such as a world map and specific rewards for completing certain levels. The levels themselves though are beyond difficult, some designed to kill you as quickly as possible; unapologetic about it. Therefore, the additions that Ratalaika have added with the cheats, rewinds and fast forwards are essential, but these still aren’t enough to turn Cyber Citizen Shockman into a very good game.