October 4, 2010

Getting Lost in Shadows, How To

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 4:44 pm

Lost in Shadow
Detoxing delicious dependencies from my system has made for a melancholic week in Sugarland.

When not otherwise curled into a ball of whimpering insensibility, it seemed an ideal time to get on with the business of gaming. I was a bit desperate for something new on the shelf, a game to fire and order the synapses by nature of an inviting challenge to the still functioning bit of reason left to me.

For their part, Hudson sent out a demo disc for Lost in Shadow, quite a bit early given that the Wii game doesn’t arrive here until January.

The taste that demo disc offers is welcoming enough, with the shadow puppetry premise finding plenty of ways to twist and turn and most importantly, to build. There’s a progressive layering of ideas in the best tradition, continually inviting the player deeper into the shadows of the game’s looming tower.

Lost in Shadow
Sensing my disarray and attention deficit, Lost in Shadow gets on with getting to the gaming rather than needlessly setting up the pieces on the board. Or rather, the story beyond the initial setup emerges through the play of the game, as a character of atmosphere, design, challenge.

As for that setup, an intimidating figure cuts the shadow of an imprisoned boy away with an impressively bizarre blade, only to cast the boy’s shadow from the top of the tower. Waking up at the bottom, and greeted by a fairy, the boy rises to his feet with no where to turn except the tower once again in order to reclaim his body.

The challenge is in finding the means to do so as a figment, a sliver, a wisp of self that crawls along the bending light peaking through the rising columns and stairwells that lead back to that towering point of confrontation. This isn’t a challenge that continually leaves the player scratching their head – the challenge is always on the game, on the ability to continually build upon its trickery, and balance the light and the dark with a game that keeps asking the player to come just a little further.

And as far as this demo is concerned, the game accomplishes this quite well. Well enough that I don’t necessarily need to reach for Ico atmospheric comparisons to pad out the word count.

Lost in Shadow
Memories, cutting, burning, carry weight. I wrote that on a scrap of paper last night.

I think what I must have meant is that within Lost in Shadow, memories are glowing objects that the player searches out and claims, often learning something fit for a fortune cookie that adds physical weight to your shadow, tracked in the corner and serving as a life gauge.

At first, life doesn’t seem very significant, aside from a few pitfalls that can be hazardous when hitting the bottom. Later, enemies cause a dramatic reappraisal on the appreciation of life and every last drop the gauge has to offer.

Traveling along the shadow infrastructure, players can extend the path ahead by manipulating real world objects with the fairy – pointing with the WiiMote and holding down the “B” button to activate lifts and switches, swiveling objects to stretch shadow bridges, or rising on shadow platforms as large objects swivel when brought to life. All of this leads to a barrier at the end of each area, where three shadow eyes are needed to open the way forward – the player collects these along the way of course.

The joy of exploiting the light and dark play at work is fed by the many ways the game takes joy in possibilities offered by the idea – areas where players can swing the light source of the room, causing shadows to swivel left and right and allowing for the boy to run and jump as they sway. Light sources can even be adjusted in other areas to open up more paths, and Shadow Portals offer areas within areas, spaces where the player can rotate the environment. Lost in Shadow pushes every-which-way so far.

The puzzles are never quite so puzzling, more a case of observance, and then combat enters from stage right to strike a balance – claiming the shadow of a sword, players suddenly confront shadow spiders and other beasts, most often with the sword, but sometimes able to activate traps within the tower to dispatch them as well. Combat works within the game as something mathematical, the player takes three swings and then watches for the counterstrike.

As for how the entirety of a game goes, it’s hard to imagine the title raising the bar on ideas without hitting a ceiling, but there’s already enough here to furnish a better game than I’ve played anywhere else lately.

The demo is a short, somber, and just a little artsy treat, one which I wish more gamers could access via some sort of theoretical Wii powered demo playing device. The open and easy nature of the game definitely lends itself to such potential witchcraft.


  1. Forgot the game got moved to January… which is great for it since I can use my end of the year bonus to buy it at launch. Liked the short PC demo from Hudson so that demo disc must be interesting.

    Comment by EdEN — October 7, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  2. I’ll put some video up before Monday, just been running around to events this week :/

    Comment by Jamie Love — October 7, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

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