Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector profile on GiantBomb.com

Often in games, shadows are nothing more than minor details we look at when deciding how good the graphics are. But what if the entire story of a game revolved around these barely acknowledged details?

Lost in Shadow from Hudson Entertainment begins at the top of a mighty tower that stretches far beyond the clouds. There, someone who looks like a cheap Darth Vader wannabe strikes a boy in chains with a sword and the boy’s shadow slips away. The cloaked figure then takes the shadow and flings it as far as he can from the top of the tower. The shadow, after landing, longs to be whole, and must now manipulate light in order to ride the shadows of his surroundings back up to the top of the massive tower and find out why the cloaked figure would do such a thing as separate a boy from his shadow.

I remember playing a demo of Lost in Shadow at the 2010 New York ComicCon and I absolutely fell in love with that early concept. Of course, I only had the opportunity to play the handful of tutorial levels, but it was enough to get me excited about this game, which makes it even tougher for me now to see it end up wallowing in mediocrity.

The concept of Lost in Shadow is a great one and turns your typical platformer on its head. Only with the assistance of a little fairy friend that helps lost shadows called a Spangle, can you interact with the real world and move around loose pipes, steel girders, and the light sources in the room in order to help lay out the shadow path that will allow you to climb up to the next floor of the tower. On top of this, you must also collect three Monitor Eyes per level that will allow you to remove shadow barriers at the end of each floor that are trying to keep you from advancing further. This pushes you to not only try to move through each level, but explore it thoroughly as you do so as it is the only way to find the Monitor Eyes.

It wouldn’t be much of a game though if you were just moving around the environment and constantly climbing. No, the shadows of horrific creatures like giant spiders and lizards, shadow turrets, and other traps line the tower’s floors and will require you to find a weapon to help vanquish these terrors as you continue your quest for unification.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to this game once you get past the first ten floors and learn the concepts you’ll use throughout the game because you’ll start to realize there is a pattern. That repeats for another 60 floors. Although the concept of Lost in Shadow is very original, the gameplay and level design is actually very uninspired.

You’ll find yourself having to solve the same puzzles and traps over and over again that by the time you even move halfway up the tower, you might just give up due to boredom. The game will probably only take most gamers about ten hours to beat, but it becomes such a chore to constantly have to repeat yourself, that it will feel like you’re putting in a lot more time. Never mind the fetch quests dropped on you later in the game that force you to then backtrack throughout the tower.

If you’re a completionist, you’ll want to pull your hair out by the time you’re done with Lost in Shadow as you’ll think you’re finally getting close to finishing and them some other inane and repetitive task is given to you and you’ll just end up screaming “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” Okay, so I admit I’m a bit of angry gamer, but Lost in Shadow will test the patience of even the most hardcore gamers out there.

And it’s not just the gameplay that is dull and uninspired. The graphics for the game are a mixed bag. The handful of cutscenes throughout the game are nicely done and the shadow effects are great especially considering they make up the game’s entire concept, but the level backgrounds are just bland with the same handful of tones used throughout most of the game. It gets really tiresome to just look at the same green, blue, and yellow walls over and over. Combine this with the steampunk wet dream inspired foreground of rustic steam pipes and silver gears and there is nothing that really screams out visually in Lost in Shadow.

The graphics aren’t nearly as bad as the sound though. No voice acting whatsoever and the same monotonous theme that plays throughout all the game’s levels will probably give you a headache by the time you’re only a couple of hours in. The only thing that had less effort go into it than the sound for this game was the level area names like “Factory” followed up shortly thereafter by… “2nd Factory”.

One saving grace at least for Lost in Shadow is that the controls are pretty tight. Your shadow seems to sail on certain jumps and then fall short on others and the game can be a little finicky when it comes to performing actions like moving blocks or pulling levers, but for the most part everything seems to operate as it should. It’s just the fact that you have to perform the same motions with no variety whatsoever over and over again in the game’s 70-plus levels that will wear on you.

When all is said and done, Lost in Shadow was a terrific concept that hoped that would be enough to make it a great game. Too many cut corners though combined with a lot of unnecessary and repetitive levels makes this one of the more painful 10 hour games I’ve ever played. If your curiosity gets the better of you, then maybe Lost in Shadow is worth a rental, but I’d think twice before I added this permanently to my collection, even with it only being a budget title priced at $39.99.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 6.5: The bland colors get repetitive after a while and there is really nothing that jumps out about the steampunk designs of this 2.5D world, but since most of the game is done in shadows and bland colors anyway, it’s not that big a deal.

Sound: 4.0: No voice acting whatsoever coupled with 70-plus levels of the same instrumental music repeated over and over again will drive you absolutely insane.

Plot/Plot Development: 7.0: An original idea can only carry you so far. The game is so drawn out over the repetitive levels that although the beginning of the game is very intriguing, you’ll lose interest too much over time. Bonus points for trying something different though.

Gameplay: 5.0: A very simple puzzle platformer with the enemies thrown in seeming more like an after thought. The controls are very tight, but the puzzles are so repetitive you might fall asleep.

Replay Value: 1.0: Any game that you can walk away from and be happy never playing again or finishing is rare for me, but I wish I didn’t have to finish this game for a review. I want most of the ten hours I put into this game back.

Overall (not an average): 5.0: An original idea can only take a game so far and although the concept for Lost in Shadow was indeed special, so many other cut corners really take this down to the point where even as a budget title I cannot recommend this beyond a cheap rental if your curiosity gets the better of you.