Confusion abounds with this one. This isn’t the same Shockman that was originally released for the TurboGrafx-16 back in 1991, which was a localisation of Japan's Shubibinman 2. This, Cyber Citizen Shockman, is a new 2023 translation of the original Shubibinman game from 1989; and frankly, that’s the most special thing about it.

Here, a map overworld offers a choice of multiple paths, each leading to a very brief platforming stage scattered with enemies and pitfalls to leap over and avoid. Each has a boss, ranging from nice-looking mecha-styled things or well-rendered monsters, requiring little except rapid spamming early-on, and more concerted strategy later, depending on your health. Visiting the map screen offers up brief dialogue exchanges and the option to heal yourself or buy weapon upgrades with gold acquired during the stage. Deaths will slightly penalise your gold bounty, but hostages you save with each boss defeat also offer transient bonuses, health-ups, and occasionally become permanent map fixtures, like the dedicated healing nurse. Boosting weapon power is your modus operandi, eventually acquiring the chargeable Shockbeam - an addition that makes things much more enjoyable and shifts your approach to enemy negotiations.

The problem is, the game is hobbled by the most infuriatingly sluggish controls. Your character's initial walking speed is treacle slow, and not much better at full trot. Shockman is also beholden to one of the worst crimes 2D gaming can commit: inertia. This causes you to slide a good few steps in either direction while you crush the D-pad trying to correct your position. The game’s incredibly short stages have clearly been designed around this control scheme, although it seems more a lazy method to artificially expand the campaign’s lifespan - and that’s on top of a lot of structural recycling until you reach the finale.

To its credit, there are some interesting design features, with a choice of male and female characters (who play identically) and a two-player simultaneous mode. The shop and upgrade pursuits are decent objectives to work toward, but ultimately it’s so hamstrung by its laborious movement and infuriating jump mechanics that it’s hard to recommend. It looks and sounds ok for an early PC Engine title, and it’s cute enough, but there are three more entries in the series that get progressively better.

As with other Ratalaika Game retro revisits, the presentation is rudimentary but comes with a fairly comprehensive set of options to adjust the image, screen curvature, scanline density, and gamma, all of which are highly tweakable. Fast-forward and rewind features make things that bit more bearable and the gallery is always a nice diversion if you want to peruse clean scans of the manual details, as well as original case and media.

On the whole though, while some fun can be had if you really dig in and attempt to learn Shockman with total conviction, it remains the lesser of its series, has aged fairly poorly, and will really only appeal to diehard retro enthusiasts who want to own a piece of gaming history on a modern format.