The fifth game in a series that dates back to a 2002 debut released on the Game Boy Color, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a shining example of why the half-genie is considered WayForward’s flagship character.

You play as the titular Shantae as she explores the labyrinthine secrets beneath a tropical resort island. After heading there for a vacation celebration, a number of other half-genies are kidnapped by the deadly Seven Sirens. It is your mission to find them and bring them home safely. Each one you rescue rewards you by sharing their magic, giving you new skills and abilities with which to approach the rest of the game.

The platformer sees you explore dungeons scattered around the exotic location and plunging into the depths of a lost underwater city. It is beautifully designed, with a cute cartoony art style that lends itself well to the bright colours of the lush setting and quirky upbeat soundtrack.

The enemies you come across are a fun mixture of real animals and fantasy creatures. The human faces on some of them can throw you a little, but when their bodies are shaped like giant scorpions with swords for tails you get over it fairly quickly. The designs have a lot of personality and are complemented by animation that suits every character uniquely.

It’s easy enough to slap most enemies out of your path with Shantae’s signature hair whip. Enemies you defeat drop rejuvenating foods and there are pools where you can heal in every town. This means that it’s not difficult to stay on top of your life and magic. Even if you do die, save points are even more frequent, so you’ll be able to carry on fairly quickly.

The real challenge in the game comes with the puzzles. Even the action, such as the boss battles with the Sirens, are less about brute force and more about using your various magical skills to get to their weaknesses.

You also have to think creatively to access new sections of the map and to find all the treasures hidden throughout the game. As well as rescuing all the genies, you can also collect cards that you can equip to give you advantages. This is a nice extra incentive to explore every room on the map.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens has a clear narrative, but you have a lot of freedom to explore the game in your own way. The way that dungeons are built also means they don’t get tired when you return with your new abilities to uncover all their secrets.

The game gets right into the action very quickly. The storytelling is smart and efficient so you don’t need long scenes with lots of text to know what’s going on. The animation is fantastic and the cutscenes ground the story beautifully. Shantae and the Seven Sirens starts with a fun premise and a simple platform foundation, and uses it brilliantly for an end result that showcases everything the series should be.