It’s a new year, and another brutal “roguelike” has arrived on PS4 and PS5 consoles. Instead of being stuck in an endless time-loop on an alien world like in Housemarques brilliant game Returnal, Slocap has us on a quest for revenge in its unique beat’em up adventure, Sifu. We break down if Sifu lives up to the hype that it has garnered since its announcement.
In Sifu, you take control of a young student (male or female) who embarks on a quest to avenge the death of his/her father at the hands of Yang, whom you looked up to as a brother. The game opens with a prologue where you control Yang, also serving as a brief introduction to the game mechanics that will see you take down the Sifu’s (master) students before delivering the fatal blow to him as his young son/daughter watches in horror. Our young here is left alive with a scar, both physically and mentally, and vows to get justice for his father.
No surprise, like every other “roguelike,” Sifu is BRUTAL when it comes to the game’s difficulty, but it still manages to be fun. This isn’t your typical beat’em game. It requires technique if you want to see your hero make it through the day in your run. You will have to learn your opponent’s patterns and make quick and strategic use of the moves you acquire as you navigate each of the five levels to reach the boss. Players can learn different techniques and gain powerups by visiting small shrines throughout each mission and making purchases through XP or points acquired as you dish out pain to your enemies. The moves you learn do not stay upon death unless you spend enough XP to permanently unlock them, which is a goal you should shoot for during your run.
The goal is to have a near-flawless run as possible because you’re punished severely for dying. In Sifu, your player has a magic talisman that revives you upon death, but there is a catch. Your character will age upon each revive. How fast the aging process goes is determined by a number that accumulates each time you during a run. The goal of each mission is not to die, not age, and finish each task while being still being as young as possible.
Again, that’s no easy feat, but let’s say you do die during your run ( and that will happen quite often). You will be able to find different clues that go up on your board and acquire items that will help you find shortcuts giving you a direct route to the level’s boss, allowing you to avoid some tough fights.
I Know Kung Fu
You quickly learn that Sifu is not your typical button-mashing adventure right off the bat. In fact, it’s one of the most technical and brilliant ones we have ever played. You learn to combine blocking, evading, parrying with button combos, and commands that will see your player land punches and kicks in succession. Eventually, you will earn better techniques paired with other powerups to aid you during runs that could give you a slight advantage over your enemies.
Games like Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games all delivered unique experiences thanks to each game’s combat system. Like those games, Sifu offers players the closest thing to being a Kung Fu master thanks to exceptional Pak Mei Kung Fu gameplay choreographed by Pak Mei Master Benjamin Colussi. We can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is each time we catch a bad guy with a finisher after dealing some serious punishment with or without a weapon.
A Simple, Yet Beautiful World
Sifu’s environments aren’t technical marvels, but they are just as crucial to the story and help deliver the feel of being in a Kung Fu movie. From kicking ass in the slums to putting hands on feet on bad guys in a nightclub and then dishing out punishment in a museum, each level brings a unique element to the game. The hand-drawn art styles and the muted color palette are quite stunning and the character designs are gorgeous. It’s an absolute joy to see them bring the Kung Fu animations to life.
Of course, the soundtrack is pivotal, and composer/producer Howie Lee’s unique blend of traditional sounds mixed with Electronic Music sets the tone for the game masterfully.
Sifu is yet another win in the roguelike department. It’s a fantastic blend of beat’em up action infused with truly exceptional Kung Fu gameplay. At the same time, it gives players a challenging but rewarding experience when you finally manage to progress on your run after numerous tries cause you will die in this game… A LOT. Now we know roguelikes are not all gamer’s cups of tea. In fact, we don’t run to go play them either because who got time to be frustrated for hours playing a video game? But, Sifu warmed us up to this beloved genre of video games. We definitely found ourselves digging in and figuring out how we can do our runs differently and strategizing on what powerups and moves we need to take out each boss at the end of the level.
With that said, be prepared. You will get frustrated with this game, you might get the urge to chuck your DualSense controller, but better heads will surely prevail. Sifu is the first exclusive title for the PS4 and PS5 in 2022, and it’s an excellent start to the new year for PlayStation owners.
Sloclap has a classic with Sifu. It’s a true demonstration of what gamers love about video games. We highly recommend you add this one to your library.
Sifu arrives on PS4, PS5, and PC on February 8.
*Sifu review key provided for PS5 by Sloclap.*
Photo: Sloclap / Sifu