Tag Archive: puzzle

I’ve gushed over puzzle-platformers enough times at this point that it should come as no surprise that when I see a new one on the horizon, my interest is immediately piqued. So, when I saw the trailer for Little Nightmares, the same feeling of wonder and curiosity that usually comes over me again returned. Once I actually played Little Nightmares, however, any good will this game had garnered by crafting itself around one of my favorite genres was quickly lost, never to recover.

Little Nightmares follows the plight of a small girl named Six who is trapped in an underwater ship called The Maw. Six must try to escape this prison before she becomes the next snack for one of the Maw’s many hungry residents, and she will have to use all her ingenuity to outsmart her captors and earn her freedom.

I will say one thing that Little Nightmares does well—and which is evident almost from the very beginning—is the mood and atmosphere it established. The chilling music and sheer emptiness of the world that Six starts her adventure in immediately lets you know the odds are stacked against you. Her bright yellow tunic serves as a stark contrast against the mechanical, muted tones of each of the game’s five levels, providing a beacon that constantly pulls your eyes to it, similar to how Six’s singular tool—a small lighter—lights her way through some of the game’s more cramped corridors or ventilation shafts.

The cantankerous creatures that roam these oversized areas only punctuate the vastness of the Maw. Gluttonous, disgusting humanoids intended to elicit the most negative of reactions from all who glimpse their bloated forms will chase Six at the slightest hint of her presence for much of the game. Outsmarting them and, more commonly, outmaneuvering them is the only way to survive.

Unfortunately, these “people” also serve as the only form of real challenge in an overly simple game, and they are a paltry one at that. Almost no thought is required in order to overcome many of the obstacles of the Maw, with usually only a couple of well-timed jumps getting the job done, or Six sneaking by an unsuspecting denizen guarding the path. It feels like someone confused a running simulator with an actual puzzle-platformer.

The only small semblance of difficulty comes from the camera and controls, and their technical limitations. The camera feels like it’s constantly swaying, as if it’s attached to the hull of the Maw’s ship and sliding along as Six works her way up and out of its different levels. This swaying, however, is not conducive to the platforming that often needs to be carried out to get by the pits that provide Six’s most common obstacle. It also feels at times like the camera is lagging behind her, catching Six at an odd angle instead of seeing her perfectly perpendicular from the side. This causes the controls to slightly shift depending on where the camera is positioned, and walking across thin beams can become a nuisance as forward is no longer perfectly to the right or left on your joystick, and you slightly start to veer off course through no fault of your own. There’s nothing more frustrating than slipping off the edge of a small platform that you thought you were walking straight on, or making a jump that you had the distance for, but find Six hitting the edge and falling because the depth made the next platform look like it was on a different jumping line.

Well, there might be one more frustrating thing. Six has very limited abilities in the game and therefore, in order to try to fill up buttons on the PS4 controller, simple traversal abilities that are often assigned to only one button in more complex games are divided up amongst the other buttons. If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, you’re likely familiar with the “claw grip” of the early games, where your hands are basically locked onto the X and R2 buttons (A and RT on Xbox controllers) in order to parkour through the world. Similarly, you must hold Square and R2 with Six in order to not only climb, but also grab ledges when you make jumps across pits. If you’re not holding both, Six will hit the ledge at her waist, and instead of latching on, fall to her death. This is made all the more complicated by X being the jump button, forcing three simultaneous button presses to be made to traverse most obstacles—and I just don’t understand why run and grab are on two different inputs. It felt like it was a desperate attempt to make the simplest game controls more complex in an attempt to cover up the game’s actual lack of challenge.

Some of this could potentially be forgiven if the mystery of the Maw and Six’s plight could pull you in, but sadly it failed to do so for me. I wonder if it’s because I never felt truly in danger traversing the environment, my only failures ever coming due to the shortcomings of the controls and camera. What’s worse is when the game finally starts to feel like it’s ramping up its stakes, Six’s plight, and the game’s underlying messages, it pulls the plug. I finished the game in just under three hours; while there are plenty of experiences of comparable length more than worthy of your time out there, like last year’s Inside for example, Little Nightmares felt like it was just scratching the surface of what it wanted to be when it runs out of steam.

I believe the most obvious message the game tries to convey is the evils of modern consumerism, portrayed by the gluttony of the Maw’s patrons, and Six’s own poignant near-starvation that crops up near the end of each level. Little Nightmares could’ve gone so much further than a buffet table and a kitchen, however; gambling, alcohol, sex, and other vices could’ve all had their chances to shine on the Maw, and would’ve lent length and weight to a game that feels incomplete as is. Even the weird lord of the Maw’s seeming obsession with beauty and physical perfection is barely touched upon with more than a few symbols.

Little Nightmares tries to surround itself in symbolism and mystery, and succeeds in painting a bleak and moody atmosphere at least. At the same time, it failed to find a way to make me care about the main character’s plight. What’s worse is that its poor controls and camera, and utter lack of challenge, had lost me by the time it started to feel like it was finally going somewhere. My only relief came when the end credits began to roll on this poor attempt at a puzzle-platformer.

Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment • Developer: Tarsier Studios • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.28.17
A stellar atmosphere is not enough to save such a puzzle-platformer that completely lacks any sort of challenge. While the story of Six is a sad one, it’s not for the fact that her adventure begins in a cage—but that the developer failed to find a way to make me care about it at all.
The Good Beautifully crafted, atmospheric world.
The Bad Controls poorly and the overall game lacks any sort of challenge.
The Ugly Is being eaten a really scary thing for European children? I don’t get it. That was never a thing for me as a kid.
Little Nightmares  is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Bandai Namco for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Just the two of us

When I first saw Kalimba at last year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, it was still called Project Totem, but what started out as a quirky side project meant to entertain guests at the Press Play holiday party a few years back quickly intrigued me with its potential as a full-blown puzzle-platformer.

I’ve always had a penchant for this genre, with friends from college still referring to me as an idiot savant when it comes to effortlessly working my way through any number of twisting, trap-filled corridors. But Kalimba is novel in that you’re never controlling just one protagonist, but two—and the duo must work together in myriad ways in order to progress.

On the surface, even with the duality twist, the game seems simple enough. You find yourself on a tropical island named Kalimba, which has been protected for generations by the magic of a totem pole. An evil shaman appears one day, however, and shatters the monument, looking to cloak the island in his unique brand of dark magic. The totem pole’s guardian realizes that she can control remnants of the old pole, two pieces at a time, in the hopes of building a bigger, more elaborate magical ward. Taking control of these pieces is where players step in. With guidance from an aloof talking pink bear named Hoebear, players must work their way through 24 levels, collecting intricate wooden carvings on the way to sealing the dark shaman away forever.

The most impressive thing about Kalimba is how smoothly the difficulty scales. You start off with minimal obstacles to demonstrate how the two characters work in unison, but the action ramps up. You’ll begin by just pressing the A button to jump, but you’ll eventually swap your characters back and forth, acquire special amulets that let one of your totems walk on the ceiling or change their size, and even obtain the power of limited flight.

Even with all these new mechanics building on top of each other as the game progressed, I never felt the challenge was too much to handle. That’s partly because some levels include themed minigames based around your new powers, which give you the chance to perfect your new skills before continuing on. Not once did I feel frustrated by a puzzle—instead, I welcomed each new one with glee, and even the handful of times I had to resort to trial-and-error, the checkpoint system was generous enough that I never found myself having to replay huge sections to get back to where I’d initially gotten stuck.

The levels also feel distinct enough that there’s never any sort of repetition. Each puzzle is carefully crafted to push you to explore new ways to use the increasing range of your abilities—and this makes each successful solution all the more satisfying.

What’s more, the simple-yet-colorful art design ensures there aren’t any unnecessary distractions to take you away from the task at hand—which I appreciated, since the puzzles only get more intricate in the game’s limited local co-op mode. While this option only consists of eight levels, having four totems bouncing around the screen (with each player controlling two) requires some intense teamwork and concentration.

These level designs also succeed because of the tight controls. It wouldn’t be much of a puzzle-platformer if they stunk, but there’s a precision here that veterans of the genre can appreciate. All the jumps (particularly in the later levels, once it becomes ingrained how far your little totem avatars can go) are spaced out just perfectly, and the obstacles are set up just right so that you can make some impressive runs through each course as you start to master them.

Kalimba’s primary fault is its length—or lack thereof. Between co-op and single-player, the game offers 32 levels in total. Yes, some of the charm in a game like this lies in mastering the levels, collecting every item, or performing a speedrun courtesy of an always-running clock, but it shouldn’t take players more than three hours to get through that initial playthrough, and then it’s diminishing returns after that.

Some extra options do enhance the replayability—like “Old Skool” mode, which places you at the start at the first level with three lives, and from there, you must get through the whole game in one sitting. But again, I can’t imagine Kalimba continually drawing players back again and again, because once you solve the puzzles, it’s much easier to replicate your results the second and third time through.

When a game leaves you simply asking for more, though, it’s hard to be too disappointed. What Kalimba lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in style. With inventive puzzles, tight controls, and colorful worlds, there’s more than enough to keep those twitch reflexes sharp, and Kalimba should prove to be plenty of fun for gamers looking to put their puzzle-platforming skills to the test.

Developer: Press Play • Publisher: Microsoft • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 12.17.14
I only wish Kalimba were a bit longer, because its inventive puzzles, charming art style, and tight controls equal a winning combination for this quaint puzzle-platformer.
The Good Inventive, fun twist on the puzzle-platformer; the challenge steadily ramps up; excellent co-op mode.
The Bad A very short experience.
The Ugly Hoebear making fun of me for Achievement hunting. That hurts, dude.
Kalimba is a Xbox One exclusive. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review.

The C stands for charming

Constant C, a puzzle-platformer where players take control of an intrepid robot trying to right science gone wrong, immediately intrigued me when I first saw it at Tokyo Game Show last year. With a couple of simple button presses, gravity and time were mine to command, so the possibilities for countless physics-based puzzles instantly became evident. The only real question: Would the cute little bot’s platforming escapades have enough of a soul to motivate me through the dozens of stages in the final game?

The bot in questionknown as Rescue Robotis designed to activate if his space-station home ever succumbs to some calamityand, as is quickly relayed via the master AI system, it has. After experimenting with time travel and gravity manipulation, one of the scientists’ devices runs amok, enveloping the entire station in a stasis field that’s frozen everything in placeexcept you, thanks to inhibitors in your robo-parts that let you walk and jump around. So, it’s fallen to your metal shoulders to see if there’s a way to turn the field off and save the facility.

The biggest hook here is how you can interact with the immobile world. Starting off only able to pull nearby objects out of stasis, you can ride the momentum of boxes that froze while falling to get to another part of a stage. Alternatively, you can clear other boxes out of your path to open up exit doors. As the story progresses, more complex obstacles, such as lasers, moving platforms, and globes, all start to hinder your progress.

Later on, your powers increase and diversify, mirroring the smooth, upward flow of difficulty you’ll see over the dozens of stages set across six levels. These include the gravity skill mentioned earlier, which allows you to turn the world on its axis by either 90 or 180 degrees, and a second stasis-dampening field that allows multiple objects in motion at once. The expansion of your powerset also, unfortunately, opens up your playtime to potentially devolve into a comedy of errors. The gravity abilities allow Rescue Robot to use momentum to fling boxes around corners and into normally unreachable positions, which fast becomes a cornerstone of gameplay.

I found having the 90- and 180-degree rotational shifts relative to your position maddening at times, howeverI kept wishing that the buttons were instead assigned to specific walls in the room, and I’d often rotate myself the wrong way, thinking the leftmost wall was still X, even though now it had changed to B after my initial rotation. Yes, this is largely user error, since I kept slipping into a way of thinking that the game obviously wasn’t designed for. To do it the way I would’ve preferred would’ve required a different control scheme, possibly setting up all four directions to the D-pad or the second analog stick. Having to take a step out of the game, though, and methodically plan out my button presses instead of letting them flow naturally was a bit disappointing.

The second stasis-dampening field also comes with problems, but these are clearly on the technical side. Rescue Robot’s presence brings objects into and out of stasis at an ever-quickening rate, and the later levels require more precise timing and movements. As a result, the use of the second stasis field would often culminate in some screen tearing and lag, and it would occasionally lead to frustrating deaths for reasons that weren’t always clear.

The more I played Constant C, though, the more I forgave these shortcomings. Besides solving puzzles, you’re also encouraged to collect special data tubes. Not only do these unlock later stages, but also they allow the master AI to “remember” security footage from before the accident, letting you see what led to the space station’s eventual downfall. These movies include a surprising amount of character development by showing you the fates of your creators and provide an unexpectedly delightful, compelling backstory.

The data tubes also serve another purpose, though. Some levels are simple and straightforward, tempting you to just press on and let the station’s secrets remain undiscovered because the data tubes are tucked away behind near-impregnable defenses that truly push your reflexes. It’s here, in the optional objectives, where the overall difficulty can spike. You could probably rush through the game in about four hours, but if you want to collect all the tubes and have a more fleshed-out and enjoyable story, you’re looking at easily twice as long. If you’re a completionist like me with a penchant for punishment, however, you won’t be satisfied until you collect every last one. Plus, it always felt rewarding when I figured the puzzles out, and the process never felt daunting.

Of course, once you beat the game and collect all the data tubes, there’s not much in the way of replayability. But considering the 100-plus puzzles that push your skills with a controller, charming story, and interesting mechanics, Constant C shows—much like its plucky protagonist—that it has more than enough to overcome its shortcomings.

Developer: International Games System, 5pb • Publisher: Mages, 5pb • ESRB: E10+ • Release Date: 03.12.2014
Some minor bugs and a lack of replayability can’t hold back Constant C, a puzzle-platformer full of memorable conundrums and surprisingly charming characters.
The Good Inventive puzzles; delightful characters.
The Bad Lack of replayability; controls take some getting used to.
The Ugly Realizing how much time you spent struggling to get those last couple of data tubes.
Constant C is available on Xbox 360 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. Review code was provided for the benefit of this review.

A less perplexing puzzler than expected

With its bounty of conundrums complemented well by a cast of charming charactersall wrapped in narratives that have players guessing until the very endthe Professor Layton series has established itself as one of gaming’s premier puzzle franchises. But it seems that even the brainy Layton couldn’t figure out one last riddle: how to end a prequel.

That’s not to say that Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a bad game. In fact, it still hits many of those aforementioned franchise staples. Azran Legacy features more puzzles than any previous game in the series, and while some definitely require a lower barrier for entry than others, a few challenges will likely have even the most experienced puzzle fiend cashing in hint coins.

The game also offers a bevy of enjoyable minigames that unlock as you progress through the story, including a fashion-themed one wherein you try to put together the best-looking outfits for eight different ladies. I almost felt like Eric (our executive editor), with his love of Style Savvy! I had a lot more fun than I ever would’ve expected playing dress-up. There’s easily more content here than in any previous Layton game, and even if you do the bare minimum, you’re still looking at a solid 15-hour experience.

The cast is also just as lovable as ever. Whether it’s innocent Luke trying his best to impress his mentor or new characters like Aurora, who you’ll meet early on in the adventure, it’ll be hard for gamers of any age not to fall head over heels with the Professor and his crew. A big reason? There’s just as much effort put into the dialogue and rapport between characters as the puzzles themselves.

Azran Legacy falters in two key areas for me, though. The first is a technical issue. I’m among the few who actually likes using the 3D feature on Nintendo’s current handheld. Typically, I use it on just about every 3DS game I play. Using it during Azran Legacy, however, gave me a horrendous headache within five minutes. It might have something to do with the anime-style backgrounds and cutscenes, but I couldn’t find a slider setting or a position for the 3DS itself that didn’t make my head start pounding or cause most of the scenes come across a little fuzzy. Turning off the 3D is a small sacrifice, and an easy solution to a minor problem. Plus, the game still looks great in 2D (and this option nullified the pain!).

But something I couldn’t fix with the flick of a slider was the actual story. The plot of this particular Layton adventure is the weakest in the series. Part of this comes from the fact that it’s a prequel forced to tie up particular storylines in order to maintain the continuity established in The Curious Village. This corner that Level-5 painted themselves intoa pitfall in pretty much all prequelsleft the adventure absurdly predictable. Even the first two entries weren’t as unsurprising as this one; there, the writers still had room to maneuver narratively. Here, certain things had to happen, and I knew 20 minutes in how everything would unravel. The twist that usually comes at the end of every Layton game, therefore, was nonexistent here. Sure, the story shoehorns in some soap-opera-quality drama, but it’s so forced and so unnecessary that I could only shake my head in disappointment and power through the last dozen or so puzzles.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a valiant effort to show that there’s hope to be had for prequels, but in the end, it succumbs to all the same traps as many franchises before it, leaving it a bit bland and predictableespecially when compared to the rest of the series. This shouldn’t deter Professor Layton fans from the game, though. If you can look past the low points of the story, it’s still an exceptionally well-designed puzzler. If you’re looking for a game to simply promote more critical thinking, Professor Layton still reigns supreme.

Developer: Level-5 • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 02.28.14
With the most puzzles in series history, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy will force players to rack their brains, and the Professor and his crew are as lovable as ever. Unfortunately, the prequel limitations really put a crimp on the overall narrative.
The Good Puzzle-solving is still a lot of fun.
The Bad The story’s even more predictable than expected from this series.
The Ugly Not even Professor Layton can escape underwhelming prequels.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive that was reviewed using a retail code from Nintendo.

Originally Published: March 8, 2011, on Original-Gamer.com

I had a chance to head to the Sega Spring Showcase this year in New York City and got a hands on preview of Super Monkey Ball 3D. Classic Monkey Ball action will find itself as one of the launch titles for the Nintendo 3DS on March 27, 2011, and will feature brand new multiplayer modes as well as utilize all of the 3DS’s new social features.

Stack This!

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

They had us save a world of metal and then showed us that there is still a little magic left in Halloween. So what would the folks at Double Fine Productions have for us next? Well, they felt we needed a little bit of a break and could play with some dolls. Specifically, Russian matryoshka, or babushka, dolls.

In Stacking, you are in a world similar to ours during the industrial revolution near the turn of the 20th century, but the entire population is made up of babushka dolls of varying sizes and you play as the smallest one of them all, Charlie Blackmore Charlie and his family have fallen on hard times when an industrialist named The Baron hires Charlie’s father to be his chimney sweep. But then days turn into weeks and then into months and Charlie’s father is nowhere to be found. In order to pay the rising debt the family owes, the Blackmore children are all then forced into slave labor by The Baron and his men. All that is except Charlie, who is deemed too small to be of any worth in the labor force.

Determined to save his siblings and put a stop to The Baron and his child labor schemes once and for all, Charlie sets out ready to show that it isn’t the size of the doll in the fight, but the size of the fight in the doll, or doll within a doll within a doll.

Being the smallest member of his community, Charlie has a unique talent that most others around him would be shocked to know. He can control other dolls. Well, he can stack into them anyway and then use their own unique talents around the world Charlie finds himself in while on his quest to free his family. Whether needing to take over a mechanic in order to access ventilation ducts, a fire chief in order to put out a fire, or a boxer to smash some heads with a proper uppercut, the puzzles laid before you are all rather straightforward and will require a minimum of effort for you to figure you out. The only hard part you’ll find is making sure you have the right size doll in your control to stack into the next size up.

This simple gameplay mechanic is really the entire premise of the game as you’ll work your way through some beautifully designed levels inspired by the time period like train stations, cruise ships, and zeppelins. Also fitting of the time period, and since babushka dolls don’t talk, the cut scenes are done in the silent film style where you cut to a grainy full screen of text before continuing the scene. Add in the player piano themes and although there is no voice acting whatsoever, the audio is still good, if not great.

The biggest downside of Stacking though is that the game is too short. Sure, there are plenty of collectibles and alternate ways to complete mission objectives if you’re looking to pad your achievements or trophies, but if you’re just looking for a varied gameplay experience and deep plot, then this is not the game for you, especially considering the $14.99 PSN and 1200 Microsoft point price tag that comes with Stacking. The only reason why the game doesn’t start to feel tedious is because it should only take you two or three hours to beat the entire story.

Although with just as much humor and polish as previous Double Fine titles, Stacking just doesn’t have enough content to warrant such a large price tag for this downloadable game. Without a glitch to be found and with a premise that was as inventive as this one, I wish I could just sing the praises about Stacking, but at the end of the day the game is too short, simple, and just not as fun or as addictive as it could be. Since it is technically very sound, if you’re still curious about Stacking, I would recommend waiting for it to go on sale or be included as some sort of downloadable game deal before making this a part of your collection.

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

Graphics: 10.0: Although the character designs are as simple as can be, the world of Stacking comes off without a glitch and the perspective change as you move into larger and smaller dolls is seamless. I can’t think of how Double Fine could have made this world they crafted come to life any better.

Audio: 8.0: It may have been inventive to use the silent movie style for the cut scenes, but I really would have preferred voice actors. Aside from this, the classic piano themes and “click-clack” SFX as you enter and exit various dolls work perfectly.

Plot/Plot Develoment: 7.0: A very basic and predictable plot that does the job, but is really nothing more than a vehicle for the concept of Stacking.

Gameplay: 6.0: Innovative and unique, the core gameplay of Stacking, although glitchless, does become very repetitive over the short time you’ll be playing this game. Combine this with simple puzzles and you have an interesting experience that just fails to impress beyond the initial few moments.

Replay Value: 6.0: There may be several ways to complete each puzzle and a variety of collectibles to find on each level, but most are so simple to solve that even if you come back to finish the game, it shouldn’t take you more than five hours to get to 100% and there isn’t enough here to make you play through the game again.

Overall (not an average): 6.5: Stacking is a very polished downloadable game, but considering the lack of content you get for the $15 price tag and I’d wait until this game went on sale before seeing this as a truly worthwhile purchase.


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.


Originally Published: December 15, 2010, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed the Wiiware Fluidity.

Originally Published: October 15, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com and NationalLampoon.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Professor Layton and the Unwound Future for Nintendo DS.