by Maja, reviewed on
A new puzzle platformer: inventive, engaging and promising
Hold on tight because Nintendo has another interesting game in store for us this winter; a new puzzle platformer requiring skill as well as brains to master it. Lost in Shadow is anything but just another platformer. The trailer reveals levels of numerous complexities that become more demanding with every progression. Puzzle platformers are an innovative hybrid genre that offers a combination of the great leaps and fast-paced level design of the platformer with the brain testing complexities of puzzle solving. Lost in Shadow is adding up to be quite a challenge with its unique, although somewhat confusing graphics in 50 intriguing levels ready to test our patience and gaming skills.
Becoming whole: the lost boy and his shadow
The plot of the game seems simple enough: a boy held in chains at the top of a tower is forcibly separated from his ‘soul’ (represented by his shadow) when an executioner materializes and cleaves it from his body and then flings it off the side of the tower. Once the intro is finished players will begin to play the role as the boy’s soul/shadow. The goal is to climb back to the top of the tower with the help of a fairy named Spangle. However, the game’s simplicity only appears within its basic plot; the difficulty and the challenges are ever increasing along with the ambiguity of the narrative.
As players wander aimlessly as the shadow in search of the boy, they will encounter memories left behind by others. Unlocking these memories adds weight to the shadow and this goes towards making it whole once again. The weight in this case is literal, as it will take 21 grams to make the shadow/soul whole. This figure is hardly original: it stems from a popular belief propagated by a physician in 1907 who recorded a small loss in body weight immediately following death. He mustered the figure to be 21 grams but this is purely arbitrary. Although this ‘research’ was dismissed by scientists and the scientific community, it remained a popular part of mainstream culture (remember the movie 21 Grams?)
The game definitely deals with those eternal questions and truths (burn incense for the following) about the essence of being, the nature of memories and the impalpable fragments that form our selfhood. It also gives us an evident intertextual link with a world-famous literature hero: consider the following elements - lost boy, shadow and fairy helper. No it is not a sequel to Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, it is the all-time children’s favorite Peter Pan and his desperate attempts to catch his own shadow and sew it back on to himself. Apart from containing a profound plot, the game seems to be promising in terms of its visual and gameplay components as well.
Unique art style: the joys of manipulating shadows and light
As you play as a shadow the game allows you to interact with other shadows that come in the form of monsters and your little fairy helper for example. This is further expanded upon by allowing players to cast shadows onto buildings, platforms, ledges and switches. You can also manipulate light to alter shadows and shift their form horizontally and vertically. Early on in the game, you acquire a sword that helps you battle shadowy monsters; those with red eyes can be destroyed with a sword, and solving puzzles can kill those with blue eyes. The fairy comes in handy as it allows you to interact with the material world that is usually out of reach. The automatic camera gives you an efficient view that is not obscured by the complex interplay of shadows and material objects.
To sum up, Lost in Shadow seems like an innovative revival of the puzzle platformer genre. Visually impressive and profoundly metaphorical in its Peter Pan-like plot and objectives; this is a game that is bound to appeal to the more demanding gamers out there and ensure them of some challenging entertainment.