Color me worried. When I originally played the game at E3, I had nothing but good things to say about the game. In fact, it was one of the games I was most looking forward to after the show. Which is why it worries me that I don’t want to go back and play the demo of the game over and over again. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Lost in Shadow (also known as A Shadow’s Tale) is an action platforming game coming exclusively to Wii early next year. The game features a shadow who is forcibly severed from the boy he belongs to by a magician and flung to the bottom of a tall tower. The shadow meets Sylph, a butterfly-like creature, who agrees to help him ascend the tower to return to his boy before he dies. It’s not as easy as all that, though. Apparently the reason the magician set up the whole plot is the fact that his tower has been overrun by evil forces and it is up to the shadow of the boy to cleanse the tower in his quest to return to his body. Oh, the shadow is also an amnesiac. Apparently his memories were separated from his body as well, though they can be found littering the various levels of the tower, advancing the story and adding much-needed health to the shadow.
The gameplay is conceptually very interesting. Most of the action takes place literally in the background, where the shadow walks and leaps upon shadows cast by objects in the foreground.
The shadow also interacts with the world in a couple of ways. He can manipulate the shadows of objects in order to use their real-world counterparts, and he can also use Sylph to make some mechanisms function. There is also the occasional opportunity where the shadow can actually change the way the light is shining in a room to move shadows around. It requires thinking about the puzzles in the game in a whole new light, if you’ll pardon the pun.
And the idea is the best part of the game. Inspired by the director’s love of playing shadow tag as a kid, it’s incredibly enjoyable to look at the shadows cast by various objects and figure out how to interact with them to continue your forward progress… in short bursts at least. Unfortunately, the longer you play the game, the less substantive it seems. Once the fresh thrill of controlling a character in a new environment wears off, the game feels repetitive and bland. Hopefully this is a result of already playing many of the levels at E3. I also don’t believe I’ve plumbed the depths of all its variations, so I’m not entirely ready to write off the gameplay yet.
The other thing that has me worried about the game is the graphics. When I played the game at E3 I really loved the art style and thought that it looked great, though others who played the game complained about muddiness in the visuals. After now playing the game on a SDTV instead of a high-def one, the muddiness is even more pronounced. At times this actually gets in the way of gameplay, as the text can be difficult to read and items can be missed. Unfortunately I can’t write this off. My only hope is that it will be cleared up a bit by the time the game is released.
The music, however, is fantastic. When it kicks in, the score is breathtakingly beautiful and reminiscent of anime composer Yoko Kanno’s aural gems. The game mostly focuses on an ambient noise soundtrack, which really underscores the feeling of solitude and vulnerability very well, and in the sound department there’s nothing to complain about at all.
In spite of any concerns, Hudson has a month left to polish Lost in Shadow, so it’s too early to judge the game’s ultimate quality. We’re planning on reviewing the final build of the game when it ships to North America on January 4, 2011, so be sure to check that out.