We here at Bleeding Cool do a great deal of reviews at a rate that would shatter the minds of less-willful individuals. Much of the time the materials we receive for the sake of reviews are quite neat in many different aspects. And we can appreciate the effort put in by all companies whose products we review. But sometimes, despite the colorful packaging and detailed illustrations for some games we review, that isn't quite enough.
Shaka Shredders, sadly, may well be one of these games. We reviewed it, and here's what we think, bearing in mind that the game is not finalized. We would like our readers to note that this game is definitely subject to some stylistic changes, and the developers to take our review notes into consideration. We also recommend perhaps demoing it to see how it plays, if interested. It's got an interesting mechanical system to it as a craftable card game.
Shaka Shredders: Rivals is a very strange game in an even weirder niche. Not only is it a lesson in not judging a book (or game) by the cover, but it feels like it fuels a cliched, stereotypical view of various social archetypes of people. Sure, the characters in the game are not people – they're all animals, a candy-coated facade for the issue – but they are treated very similarly in application to students of a high school or middle school. And most of us are aware of how cruel kids in those age groups can be. There are characters including a goth python snake named "Ana Banana", a hammerhead-shark named "Sawolski" who is a construction worker for some reason, and a gorilla surnamed "Kokonut" who seems to switch between the title prefixes of "Mr." and "Dr." in an effort to play both factions of the game. There's no debating whether players will or won't choose favorites in the game, likely based on visual cues. Will that favoritism carry into their middle school years? Ideally not, but it may.
The game itself is also about trash-talking and throwing insults (through game mechanics) at the other characters. It's a neat concept, but there are a couple of issues with that idea:
For one, this game is deceptively-bright and cheery for that sort of idea to take root in the intended demographic of Ages 10 and up. Ten-year-olds will likely think the game too childlike for their attention, even if there are animals with skateboards and surfboards on the packaging (where do these boards factor in, anyway?), while younger audiences may be stymied by their parents from getting this game for reasons of crude, theoretically insulting humor (although we will admit, that may not stop all parents).
Secondly, the personalities of the characters are a bit too bland to augment with a line of flavor text at the bottom. To be frank, most of the flavor text is nonsensical, even non-sequitur to the card in question. This isn't the worst gripe, but it raises questions which will hopefully be answered with editing and revisions.
Furthermore, and perhaps most crucial for some, while Sunslap Studios made us aware that this "magnetic card game" would be rebalanced in terms of its magnetic force, the game itself does not feel safe to play. The cards we received were, as Sunslap admitted, over-magnetized and therefore this will already be taken into consideration by the studio in future versions of the release. If you are going to back their Kickstarter, you'll receive a set of cards with a totally different magnetization factor, presumably a much safer one. Let's hope it's safe enough.
All in all, it is our sincere hope that Shaka Shredders succeeds both in its Kickstarter and in general, with some nudges. We just think it may need a bit more nudging in the right direction than other child-oriented tabletop games. It fills an interesting niche in that it's very innovative with its magnetic system, but it falters in its application of the game where lore is concerned. The idea of a brightly-colored bunch of animals performing extreme-sports is great; there's no reason to make them insult each other, especially when the designers want to market to a demographic that's about to enter what is arguably the most brutal system of education they may conceivably know. All in all, make no mistake – we do want this game to do well, but it has some hurdles to jump first.
If you have thoughts on Shaka Shredders, let us know in the comments below!