Review: Lost in Shadow
No cute intros, I’m going to get straight to the flak on this one. Lost in Shadow was a very interesting game to review. I spent the entire time I was playing wondering if I was enjoying myself or not, split between loving the action unfolding on the screen and noticing how slowly my complete percentage rose as I progressed. I found myself split; do I like this game? That’s a question I hope to answer today.
Lost in Shadow is one of THOSE games. You know which ones I mean. The story is practically nonexistent and for the most part is left for you to figure out as you go along. Thankfully it’s also one of those games that handles it’s presentation of the story very well. The setup is explained through a short opening cinematic that basically tells you this: you’re a young boy being dragged by a large armored man. Somehow he destroys your body but is still holding your shadow, which he hurls off of the giant tower you’re on. You wake up as the shadow and for some reason decide that climbing said tower is a thing you should do.
As things set in motion, the main gimmick immediately comes to play. As your main character is a shadow, you can only interact with other shadows. This can actually be a little bit confusing sometimes, as you’ll find yourself focusing on the objects in the foreground and as a result will be mistiming a lot of jumps, or running into obstacles you didn’t notice were there. You’ll get used to it, but it takes a minute and will still throw you for a loop sometimes.
While most of the objects you interact with are “real world” constructs casting a shadow in the background, some things are more like you; a shadow without a physical body. These include mostly the various enemies you’ll fight as you progress which includes everything from spiders to what appear to be birds or suits of armor.
The combat itself is very simple, simply press the attack button to swing your sword. You can combo this into three hits, but other than that it never does anything different. Your strength goes up as you level up, and that’s all. The enemies also become stronger the farther you progress, so in the end it’s all meaningless as the spider on level one will take the same amount of hits as the ones on level 20. This just makes the earlier levels easier if you come back to them. With how basic the fighting is, I found there to be a little bit too much reliance on combat for my taste and would have preferred more focus on the puzzles.
The enemies are varied that you’re not always fighting the same spider, but each different enemy is basically defeated by getting in striking range and mashing the attack button.They’ll hit you back, but you’re far more likely to die from falling off a ledge or getting crushed than you are by the spiders.
Lost in Shadow is at it’s core a puzzle game. Your goal is to reach the top of the tower, one to three levels at a time. On each level are three “Monitor Eyes” that you must touch to collect. Grabbing all three will allow you to pass the final gate. Each time you collect one a little display pops up to show which of the three you just took. Many times I would find myself grabbing the second or third one before finding the one before it, which would force me to backtrack to find where I took a wrong turn.
Speaking of backtracking, that’s something you’re going to have to do a lot. One reason is as I mentioned above, grabbing a monitor eye you missed. Or perhaps you’ll have a locked door in front of you, and the switch for that door is at the end of the level; some have you running back and forth many times.
Near the end of the game you’ll earn a new ability that will allow you to go to areas you couldn’t reach in the earlier levels. While you only HAVE to re-visit about six specific levels to beat the game, you’ll have to go through quite a few more to get to the ones you need. The puzzles remain solved thankfully, but I found this part particularly aggravating.
The controls in the game work fairly good for the most part, but can be a tad unresponsive at times. A few levels require platforming that requires too perfect of delicacy and precision for what the Wii’s “Nunchuk” controller offers, but these were minor annoyances at best. The cursor for the actual Wii remote is presented as a little fairy that’s accompanying you on the journey, and thankfully is used very tastefully; mostly being used to manipulate objects in the environment to alter their shadows.
For a game that mostly sticks to it’s guns and changes little from the beginning as far as gameplay is concerned, it gets quite a bit of mileage out of these mechanics without becoming a tired exercise in repeating the same thing over and over again. While almost every level will consist of “press this switch, kill that guy, walk through here”, the way these elements are combined manages to keep things fresh, at least for awhile. About halfway through the game you’ll really start wishing something would change.
My play time when I finally reached the end was about 15 hours, which actually surprised me quite a bit. The pause menu displays your time and percentage complete (though this percentage includes optional collectable items into the total, mine was about 80% as the credits rolled), so you’ve always got a good idea of how far you’re progressing. At the end I felt the game started to drag on, and the one new late addition gameplay mechanic does little to change the redundancy.
Lost in Shadow is something of an enigma. It’s a very ambitious game that relies strongly on it’s core gimmick and does a good job of utilizing that in interesting and fresh ways. This is also it’s largest problem however, as it relies on it’s central idea and only that for almost the entire game. It’s a bit redundant and drags on towards the end and also relies a bit too much on the simplistic combat. More level and combat variety would have made the game a lot better.
They took an original idea and gave it a shot, and I think they did a very commendable effort. This was certainly an experience I enjoyed, and would love to see the idea expanded on and improved in a sequel. A little more variety and refinement would have helped out a lot, but as it stands Lost in Shadow is a very enjoyable game that I recommend fans of platforming and puzzle games give a look.
- Title: Lost in Shadow
- Platform Reviewed: Wii
- Developer: Hudson Soft
- Publisher: Hudson Entertainment
- Release Date: 1.04.2011
- MSRP: $39.99
- Review copy info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.