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• Lost in Shadow

developed & published by Hudson Soft / aka A Shadow’s Tale (EU)
1 player / 3 save slots / Nintendo Wii / 2011.01.24

Lost in Shadow is one of the last hurrahs of veteran Japanese game developer Hudson Soft before being absorbed by Konami, and one of the company’s most original offerings.  Hudson Soft had survived through the past decade by rehashing its classic game franchises like Bomberman, which probably didn’t help keep the company solvent.  It’s a shame they didn’t make more games like Lost in Shadow, an original 2.5D puzzle-platform game that succeeds in being one of the Wii’s better titles.

The main character has his shadow severed from his body, and you take control as it climbs a tower on its quest to return to its owner.  The tower is very large (around 60 stories) and is steeped in a stark atmosphere that owes much to Sony Computer Entertainment’s beloved ICO.  However it is so minimalistic in its presentation that it feels like it would have been better served as a cheaper downloadable WiiWare title, which may have resulted in better sales.

Game Play

You run and jump like a typical game, collecting three keys scattered throughout each level to progress.  Although you’re just a shadow, you can interact with actual objects in the environment with the help of a fairy named Spangle which is controlled with the Wii remote’s pointer function.  This is where the game gets interesting, because depending on how you manipulate objects or lights, the shadows they cast will change.  If a gap between two platforms is too wide to jump across, you might be able to swing a lantern so that their shadows touch, allowing you to pass.  More conventional puzzle elements like switches come into play as well, which will trigger traps or open gates.  You’ll also acquire a sword so you can fend off the shadowy monsters that block your path.

The first few hours of the game are somewhat bland, but things get much better as you progress into the game.  About half way through, you acquire an item which allows you to peel off the walls and into a body of light.  You can do so only at specific points, and once you’ve passed through these special gates you have a limited time to run around to accomplish a simple task, like pushing or rotating blocks.  Doing so will again affect the shadow world, and will open new pathways to your goal.  You’ll regularly have to jump from the shadows into the real world and back again, and it literally adds a new dimension to the game.  You’ll then be encouraged to travel back to previously explored areas (which are more easily accessible thanks to an elevator).

Presentation

Lost in Shadow’s primary gimmick works surprisingly well, because despite the Wii’s limited graphical horsepower you’re constantly looking beyond the foreground details to the shadows on the background.  Had the game been made for the 3DS, the added depth would give the game even more visual flair.  It’s an ok looking game with cool monster designs and some nice effects, but it’s nothing extraordinary.  Unfortunately it suffers from a little too much bloom lighting, which tends to drown out the details, and the shadows themselves are fairly blurry and pixelated.

Although it shows major plot points with computer animated movies, there are also some painfully low budget story scenes every now and then, which consist of pixelated cut-outs moving around, which don’t really add much to the story.  There’s also very little in the way of music, so most of the time you have nothing but atmospheric effects such as the sounds of machinery to listen to.  It would have really added to the experience if it had a great soundtrack to go with its unique look and feel.

Conclusion

Lost in Shadow is fairly straight forward and never gets too complicated, but its levels are fun to solve and throw new ideas into the mix at a steady pace.  It is also quite forgiving of player mistakes, which makes it easy to pick up and play.  The game can be finished in around 10 hours, or up to around 15 if you go back to find all the hidden memories.  Getting 100% doesn’t change the ending, but will unlock secret items for the next play through.  Hudson is a fairly small developer, so the scale of the game feels more in line with an indie title than a full-fledged retail game, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing one of the Wii’s finer titles.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Makes the most of its unique gimmick
  • Lots of levels to solve and secrets to find
  • Not too punishing of mistakes
  • Atmospheric presentation

CONs:

  • Soundtrack is lacking
  • Starts off boring
  • Gets a bit repetitive
  • Elevator doesn’t stop at every level

One Sentence Review: Lost in Shadow is a fun, sometimes frustrating puzzle-platform game with an original premise.

One Word Review: Daunting.

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