In case you didn't know, Shantae is a half-genie belly dancer. Her USP is to have a shimmy and transform into an animal to help her get further in the game: a climbing monkey, perhaps, or a stampeding elephant. In Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, though, the titular heroine has lost her powers. It's a brave move to change direction in an established series, you might be thinking. Structurally, however, things remain much the same.
It's Metroidvania time once more, with the gear gates now opened with the use of pirate equipment instead of magic powers. Shantae has had to team up with her arch nemesis, pirate Risky Boots, in order to stop the latter's former boss from being reborn and taking over the world.
[Please note: if these opening paragraphs have seemed a little flat, it's because the cat deleted the original two. True story.]
There's some concern in gaming circles that WayForward have lost their way (ha) a bit in recent times. The Mighty Switch Force!s have underwhelmed some after the DSiWare Mighty duo, and their Adventure Time titles have Metacritic scores of 'dump'. Shantae has always been decent, though, and the gameplay is sharpened yet again for Pirate's Curse. The controls are pinpoint precise and the pace well-judged. The challenge is sometimes unfair but then your enemies drop health-replenishing items like Godzilla drops buildings.
However, the design sometimes wobbles in two key areas (no). The first occurs every time you start a new world: there'll be a flat left-to-right foot race to get to the meat of the island and then find its dungeon. We reckon it's an attempt to hark back to the original Shantae, but we're very charitable folk. The second design issue deserves far less charity, though.
The Shantae series - and WayForward as a whole, to be fair - has always had a mischievous approach to sexuality. There is a line, though, and having the character's bosoms pop out in 3D in their close-ups may cross that line. The Wii U version is always available, of course, and neatly sidesteps that issue - otherwise, they'd have your eye out. And all for £15.99, too (though there is a 25% discount at the time of writing). As that man on the telly used to say, "It's good, but it's not right."
Final Verdict: If you're a Shantae fan - or 'Fantae', as we imagine they never call themselves - prepare for more of the same but a bit better. If you've never played a Shantae game before and don't mind the cheeky nature of the price tag, the choices made for the 3D effect and the design of worlds before dungeons, it is a bit of a treat.