Posted by Damien McFerran
It's been two years since Arnold and Sonya were made into Shockmen.
Shockman is actually the second game in the Japanese ‘Schbibinman’ series. The first title never saw the light of day outside of Japan sadly, it was basically a fun platform action game along the same lines as Mega Man. It’s sequel Schbibinman 2 was released in North America as Shockman, and although graphically it is a big step up from the first title, on the whole it is a weaker game, casting aside many of the neat ideas that made the first game so much fun to play.
Shockman puts you in the shoes of one of two selectable heroes, Arnold or Sonya. They're both young, school-age, happy-go-lucky kids who happen to be cyborgs and moonlight as robotic superheroes. From the start, then, there's something distinct here – Capcom never let you select to play as Mega Woman, after all – and there's the added ability to play two-player co-op, with you and a friend controlling both Arnold and Sonya simultaneously.
The promise of a Mega Man-esque action experience with two players active at once is intriguing, but quickly drowned out by a lack of creativity in each of the game's other areas. Enemy design is boring and derivative – you face off against faceless foes with little personality, or random, organic alien things that don't mesh with their low-level mechanical minions. Arnold and Sonya's abilities are warmed over – just like Mega Man, they can fire small shots or charge their arm cannons to release larger bursts. And play control is poor, and frustrating to handle. Gamers who love this genre live and die by their ability to precisely guide the on-screen hero – here, it's not nearly as smooth as it should be.
Shockman tries to mix things up by altering the play style every couple of levels, transforming the hero into a kind of starship and recasting the whole experience as a forced-scrolling shooter. The Virtual Console is already vastly overpopulated with games of this ilk, though, and by comparison these diversions in Shockman just can't compete.
On the whole, Shockman is an enjoyable romp that will keep platform addicts happy for a while. It's not a perfect game by any means, but might keep you happy until Mega Man appears on the Virtual Console. For now we we’d recommend Gunstar Heroes over this. It is similar in respects, but far surpasses this title.