VG Tribune

Review: Shadow Puppeteer

February 13, 2016 / 12:08 PM

By: Matthew Gibson

For an Indie title to truly stand out, it really has to be something unique, something that separates it from the rest of the crowd. Shadow Puppeteer certainly ticks this box. It’s unique mechanic of having one character being in a 3D environment, whilst the other is only limited to walking upon shadows in the background, is a great idea, which is made even better by being able to play with a near-by friend. However, having only a clever idea can only get you so far, and sadly, this applies to Shadow Puppeteer.

Shadow Puppeteer pic

GAMEPLAY

The game starts with an old man with some sort of magical gramophone stealing people’s shadows. However, one young boy’s shadow managed to survive, leaving the boy and his silhouette to give chase to the shady fiend. Sure, the story is as plain as it gets, but this specific (if not only) plot point is essential for the game’s distinct mechanic. As the young lad traverses the 3D environment and its obstacles, the shadow must travel, well, along the shadows cast from the 3D environment’s obstacles. This allows for some genius puzzle-solving. For example, the shadow can pick up a small table’s shadow, which then makes the same small table float in mid-air. The boy can then leap on to the platform to reach a higher place, then push a box off so the shadow can get up too. But other than a couple of more puzzles, that is as far as this game goes. The puzzles quickly grow tiresome and repetitive relatively early on. It’s either use the table, hit a switch or move a box for the most part. Very little did I see noteworthy puzzles that gave me a genuine surprise, which had me moving a light source (say a glowing ball) behind one side of a wall to the other so the shadow that had been cast would allow the shadow to jump on it. Later on, you are given access to three items; a rope to connect certain points to pave a new way across, scissors to cut specific regions, and a bomb to blow up stuff. Very obvious, yes, and alas, so are the challenges that involve them. Because of this, the game is more of a plat-former, and a relatively plain one at that, although checkpoints are forgiveable, thankfully. The game supports local co-op, but sadly, I was unable to tag up with a friend, so I had to make do with the single-player mode. This way of playing did take some getting used to, with each character being controlled by each side of the controller (right for the boy and left for the shadow), yet it was quite robust, so don’t worry about going it alone!

I may have looked more favourable upon this game if it wasn’t for the poor execution. Firstly, the game suffers various technical issues. At times, I felt certain actions, primarily jumping, were done awkwardly or just didn’t work. Other times, when I respawned, the shadow wouldn’t be on the ground, leading it to just fall, and I have to die again. I often had issues with perception to. I couldn’t figure out where the boy would land at times, again leading to deaths at later stages. Most frustratingly of all is when I wasn’t able to see a table that was necessary for the silhouette to cross over, since it was placed in such an awkward position and was just difficult to spot. Throughout the journey, I was encountering at least one of these problems for most of the time, which still isn’t a lot. The game is relatively expensive by eShop standards, coming at £13 ($14.99). It does have replay value that has you collecting certain orbs that can unlock music and concept art, but for what took me around for hours to complete, with 85%-90% of orbs under my belt, there’s not a lot of bang for your buck.

VISUALS

Shadow Puppeteer isn’t a downright atrocity, but isn’t any eye-candy. Sure, it creates the scene of mystery and darkness, and there are some neat light effects here and there. However, it just not pass as a pretty game. Environments lacked any real variety to them, and objects, even with objects you interact with most of the time (like the pre-mentioned table and boxes) do not change at all. Frame rate also suffers many a time, and pre-rendered cut scenes aren’t the best on the eyes. It sets the mood for the game’s relatively dark tone, but simply put, it is not an incredibly attractive game.

Shadow Puppeteer pic 2

MUSIC

Like with its looks, the title’s soundtrack isn’t exactly pleasing. Yes, while I say this for most reviews, the musical score does establish the game’s theme, this time with a certain creepiness. Nevertheless, it falls into the category of being utterly boring. Once in a while, if not only with the final boss’s theme, the music can have some tune to it. In spite of that, I didn’t feel anything with the sound, and I wish never to hear the game’s creepy main theme again. It’s just unsettling in almost every way.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Shadow Puppeteer truly has great potential. With the game’s divergent light and shadow mechanics, which paths the way for unique puzzles, in addition to the ability to experience the game with a buddy of your’s, certainly makes this game stand out from the others. Yet, it doesn’t reach it. Alongside unattractive visuals, a discordant soundtrack, very little content for the price, and almost being a paint-by-numbers platformer rather than a captivating puzzler, this Indie title is full of shortcomings. And that is why I’m giving this game a 5/10. It should prove to be a good romp with a good mate for the short time it provides, but this may be better if it was left in the shadows.

 

Even though I gave the game a harsh score, I’m extremely thankful for being given an actual review copy of the game! Emmy Jonassen, CMO at Snow Cannon Games (the publisher of Shadow Puppeteer), was gracious enough to send my a review copy, and other than that I’m just sorry that this review came out late!

Shadow Puppeteer

5

Final Thoughts

5.0/10

About the author /


Like many other game writers, Matthew was brought into the gaming world from a young age. He aspires to be a games journalist in the future. Oh, and he's from the UK, so there's that. He also does Nintendo Podcast System, just in case there isn't enough Nintendo on this site.

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