When cooking, throwing in too many different ingredients can pollute the flavor of the pot and produce unpalatable rubbish. The same can be said about making video games, though every so often, this approach turns out something worth digging into. Bouncing around from one quasi-familiar gameplay idea to the next like an ADHD-addled youth, The Adventures of Shuggy throws a lot at you in rapid succession. At first, flip-flopping between a hodgepodge of game mechanics is disorienting because the game's endearing pint-sized protagonist switches up his powers in almost every level. But the constant fluctuation soon yields a satisfying rhythm of its own, and tackling the diverse obstacles strewn across the many stages found in this lighthearted platform puzzler evolves into a tasty surprise.
The oddly named hero finds himself in a pickle when his grandfather passes away and leaves the diminutive vampire to lord over a mansion full of unruly poltergeists, robotic chickens, and glowing zombies. Not content to let the undead rabble rule his new roost, Shuggy must scour the haunted household to collect gems and exorcise his new abode one room at a time. With more than 100 chambers to puzzle through, there's a lot of crazy ground to cover. Each region of the mansion is littered with locked doors, and completing levels earns you keys and opens up adjacent rooms. Carving a direct route through the huge mansion's girth to reach its quirky boss battles is a challenging path, and completionists will find it's worth taking a few detours to hit every room.
Most stages have you sending Shuggy running and jumping around to collect gems, solve puzzles, and avoid enemies. You must grab all of the glowing baubles in a given stage to beat it, but the way you wind up navigating each level to nab those baubles varies widely from room to room. New powers and gameplay mechanics are introduced in each stage, building on the simplistic gem-collecting premise with a dizzying array of twists. In some levels, the puzzle elements are pretty straightforward. Shuggy can rotate the entire screen at a 90-degree angle in the direction he's facing, fly upward, float downward, hop onto triggers to move blocks, eat food to grow or shrink, and even herd small orange creatures around. Other rooms put more complicated ideas into play. For example, there's a Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom-like time-shift mechanic in some areas where the clock resets each minute, which creates shadow copies of Shuggy that follow his previous movements. Another tricky mechanic has you grabbing a rope and entwining yourself around the stage to rotate gears and swing into hard-to-reach nooks. Because the game's numerous puzzle rooms are small, short affairs designed to be clobbered in short bursts, you generally only have to work with one gameplay mechanic at a time. That's not a bad thing. Also, sneaky level designs and new enemies help round out the already tremendous variety between levels.
For all its fun, Adventures of Shuggy can be brutal at times. Though they're simple to handle, the controls feel loose until you get used to them. Even then, character movements can still be too unwieldy when tougher stages require a delicate touch. Holding the thumbstick to move in a direction for more than a second also makes Shuggy bolt and causes him to blur. It's sometimes tough to gauge where he's at onscreen, making it easier to accidentally plow right into danger. This is a rough prospect because anytime Shuggy touches an enemy, hits a spike, or bumps into himself during time-slip stages, the entire level resets. Replaying short stages over and over again until you nail the perfect timing needed to grab all the gems isn't so bad, but a few of the lengthier levels can be infuriating.
Shuggy's trek to cleanse his mansion of naughty creatures is an enjoyable endeavor despite these few nuisances. Multiplayer options tread a similar line. Co-op play is a local-only mode that lets up to four players team up to test their collective hand at levels. The downside is that the stage resets if anyone gets hit, which makes lots of trouble for uncoordinated teams. This is balanced some by a much more fun unlockable Challenge mode, which offers a neat variation on tic-tac-toe that has opposing players taking turns working through stages to earn squares on a grid.
The Adventures of Shuggy may sandwich a lot of familiar gameplay ideas, but it does so in a way that's refreshing rather than gimmicky. Because each stage offers a different flavor from the one before it, the constantly cycling nature of the level designs keeps the puzzle action buoyant well into the adventure. The daunting task of muscling through some serious spectral housecleaning never grows dull because the rules change up well before you can get sick of them. When you get right down to it, sheer variety is what gives this puzzler some staying power and makes up for its faults.