What is a shadow? “A dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface”. Of course, without light there cannot be shadows. And without a shadow there can’t be life. What would you do if somehow you were stripped of your own shadow? Yes, it’s perhaps like Peter Pan. However, in this case, what if your consciousness moved over to your shadow. This is A Shadow’s Tale.
A Shadow’s Tale puts players in the shadow shoes of a young boy stripped of his shadow. The mind of the character remains within his shadow. It is up to the player to guide the character back to the top of a tower where his body is trapped by a cloaked presence. Why this cloaked figure has stripped you of your shadow and keeps your body trapped is unclear, but what is clear, is that you’ll need to climb the tower to find out and reclaim your physical body.
The game is set out as a 2D platformer. Being a shadow, the player is restricted to moving within the restrictions of the background area of the game. Everything that casts a shadow is accessible by the character. Platforms, walls and even the dangers from shadows created by the tower’s defences such as the shadow of an arrow. It’s truly incredible how the creators made a world inside a world, known as the shadow world. As players progress through levels you’ll need to figure and solve certain puzzles. These aren’t your normal types of puzzles but rather, puzzles that affect the physical world or material world. In doing so you’ll be able to open up new paths or a path that was previously blocked off completely. The question of course is that if you’re a shadow, how then would you affect the material world. The answer of course is with magical intervention. Or in this case a fairy.
Accompanying the player throughout the game is a fairy. Usually accompanying the player as a shadow, trailing behind the player, the fairy comes to life as players point the Wii remote at the television. In doing so you’ll be able to take control of the fairy and use its magical glow to find secret switches in the levels. These switches in turn affect the different platforms throughout a level. Clicking on a switch will allow the platform to move left or right and even up and down. With each movement, the shadow of these platforms moves into different shapes and spaces, thus allowing the player to reach higher out of reach platforms or even gain access to a secret path. Moving platforms aren’t the only way to manipulate the shadow environment. At certain points of a level, a “light lever” will appear at the bottom of the screen or right of the screen. With the fairy, you’ll be able to scroll this lever left or right or up and down. As you scroll, the light each level will shift the shadows of immovable platforms. Bringing together platforms that were impossible to jump to before or allowing the path to overlap revealing secret areas. Some of these areas will house one of the three orbs you’ll need to collect through each level. If somehow, you’ve missed one, you’ll have to travel back through the level to find it. For without all three orbs you won’t be able to proceed to the next area/level.
Throughout the game you’ll come across memories. These memories act more like a tutorial system, giving the player tips on what to do next. With each memory activated, the weight of the shadow will increase. Your weight of course is connected to the life of your shadow. In other words, HP. During your adventure you’ll come across shadow enemies. At first, you’ll be defenceless, and will need to find a way around them. Shortly after though, you’ll find a rusty sword and, in turn, its attached shadow. Once you’ve grabbed the swords shadow and equip it, it’ll allow you to swing three consecutive times at enemies. It will also allow the player to attack while kneeling and jumping. However, not all enemies can be defeated by the swing of your sword. Players will have to use the towers defences against the enemies and trigger traps, such as turrets that shoot arrows. Obviously, it is the arrows shadow that’s deadly and not the arrow itself. Although enemies won’t be much of a challenge at first, since the game focuses more on the puzzle aspect of things, it is important to defeat as many enemies as you can since they grant the player EXP to level up that in turn makes your swords striking more powerful. Keep in mind that the higher up you get, the wearier you’ll need to be, as it is with most dangerous adventures. The deeper you travel, the more dangerous it becomes.
All in all, A Shadow’s Tale was an intriguing title that left me in awe over and over again. I was left incredibly amazed as to how each shadow was utilised to create this world that lies in the background of the physical world. At first, it’ll be difficult to keep your eyes on the shadow platform. And this is of course to be expected. We’re not trained to be focusing on the shadows, but rather the material world in games. A Shadow’s Tale twists this concept around completely and yet even with the player needing to focus on the shadows, the world itself is still quite an art piece to admire. Although it may not be bright and vibrant, the world captures the struggles and hardships of what it takes to recover something important that was lost. The game also utilises the Wii Remote perfectly, allowing the player to control the fairy companion while still keeping the rest of the world in motion and moving forward. If you love 2D side-scrolling platformers with light to medium puzzles, this is a must check out for you.