Published on December 6th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
A Shadow’s Tale
A Shadow’s Tale, or “Lost in Shadow” if you’re from ‘Murica, is a platform game released on the Wii in 2010, by some freak occurrence this game was localised by Konami here in the UK but was originally developed by Hudson Soft, the folks behind Bomberman.
The game is simple enough in concept, you play as a shadow with seemingly no name who was stripped from his body and must climb a tower to get it back, the issue of being a soul mightn’t have been too bad but there is also a monster knocking around that can devour him, so there’s a pretty immediate incentive.
The gameplay involves using the shadow realm in the background of the screen to negotiate a path through the level, collecting 3 orbs in order to pass the gate at the end, it works like a puzzle platformer with tasks revolving around the unique aspect of being a shadow such as light and shadow play. There are shadow enemies which attack the boy as he makes his way through levels, which are dealt with the basic attack with the sword that he finds early in the game. The health system is rather innovative but the implementation is not too unique, the boy must collect various “memories” throughout the level in order to gain “grams” for his soul, the more weight he has the more health, these were inspired by Duncan MacGougall’s soul theory.
The extra puzzle features are some of the game’s highlights for the Shadow theme, following “Boy 1” is a small butterfly-thing called something vaguely unmemorable, that can change the light source and skewing the shadows in order to reach different platforms, or just activating different objects to move into the correct path. Each level has a door located that takes the protagonist to an enclosed puzzle area which must be completed to pass beyond, upon completion your health is fully restored. Further into the game you can find gates which can allow you to temporarily gain a body and manipulate the physical objects instead of shadows.
The presentation is the most striking thing about the game, similar to Ico it has similar green/yellow filters and detailed realistic environments that are set in a sandstone architecture with mechanical devices. The music atmospheric and complements the art style, by being rather quiet most of the time. The boy doesn’t really have a voice and his entire character development is made through text and finding the memories he lost upon becoming a shadow. Unfortunately it is hard to get invested in a character which attempts to pull of the contemplative depth of Ico, when he speaks so much all of which revolves around “I miss my body” and “I want my body back”.
The visuals are in places well-designed and the disguising of game objects is masterfully done, however the game appears content on being a poor man’s Ico and it is obvious this was a big inspiration. The graphics are too sharp and bearing in mind the game is based upon and named after shadows, one would expect them to be the better looking part of the game, unfortunately the shadows suffer from what most games of the past generation have where the resolution is horrendous and choppy.
The puzzles are fun but rather overwhelming in a less than linear platform game, with the required three orbs to get it can become more tiresome to backtrack than it is fun. The gameplay as a shadow is controlled through the analogue stick on the remote and the activation using the fairy thing through the Wii-mote by aiming, it’s not as smooth as could be, sometimes the jumping sticks and it takes a while to move after getting up from ladders, these can cause enemies to get more hits on you and can be infuriating.
The difficulty bounces around, mostly stemmed from enemies being clumped together in too short intervals, whereas the puzzles are simple, easy and tedious, merely being a test of patience rather than skill. Over the course of the game the difficulty becomes harder and the game includes an annoying segment where you have to backtrack around the tower, however overall the experience becomes more enjoyable whether it be entertainment through attrition or becoming better in general. It takes quite a lot of enemies to kill to refill the health gauge and when the boy dies, you can either turn the game off and go back to the start of the level with nothing collected or you can continue and go back to the start of the level with what you have collected and the file now being called Boy #2. Every time you die, this number increases and you have little choice but to allow it.
Overall the game is held back by its numerous flaws of level design and gameplay management, it also goes on for too long with segments becoming tedious and all of the wonderful and interesting quirks becoming tired before being put to rest. There are many times that I wanted to just give up due to the effort being too much, or the levels becoming too boring. It takes ages before there is a change of scenery and even then it wasn’t terribly different. The game flow is mostly monotonous but is lifted by moments when you can explore something interesting or new, like the cart section. The boss fights consist of running away and was fairly fun and the end boss fight was a little long but brought some interesting concepts to the already established game design. The 3D segments handle like hell, it feels like the game was probably initially designed in 3 dimensions but was dropped for the shadow idea, unfortunately you can feel it with the strangely floaty and clunky way it controls when the boy is in the real world.
The Wii hasn’t got many good new IPs and with a distinct lack of console platfomers it is worth having a try if only for the novelty of the first few levels. It looks fairly nice and is the closest we’re going to get to another game like Ico, even if it isn’t as rewarding. A Shadow’s Tale is a game with its ups and downs but doesn’t fail to deliver an entirely new experience, making for a fairly average title that’s good to fill your time.
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