The strange history of Lost in Shadow, which saw the game begin as a budget downloadable title and suddenly switch to a full disc release, has brought about a very strange game. Its very compelling concept — taking control of a shadow that can only traverse the world of shadows that the real objects project — is one that grabbed hold of many gamers early on in its life. While many suggested that its conversion to a disc release had essentially ”sent the game to die,” some remained optimistic.
I belonged to the latter group and was glad to dig into the game for review. I expected a quirky platformer with some thought-provoking puzzles and, with any luck, a compelling story. I got none of these. Not even close. I’m going to tell you right now that this is going to be an unconventional review. It’s going to turn into a rant, and I know I’m going to be unable to stop it.Lost in Shadow is a dumb game. It’s a game with puzzles so simple that it’s hard to call them puzzles at all. Typically, they feel more like busywork, as if you’re putting in a hard day’s work at a factory. Flipping switches, moving lights — it’s all pretty interesting the first time and, hell, it can even be a little trippy. In the first few moments of the game, you’ll be amazed at just how strange it is to take control of a shadow and move only within that world. You’ll probably even kill yourself a few times because you’re expecting to land on a platform, but there’s no shadow there to support you.
As more time passes, it becomes more and more apparent, though, that everything you’re doing is unbelievably repetitive and completely lacking in intelligent design or forethought. Most of the time, all you’re doing is going through a level, flipping the occasional switch, moving the occasional light to lower a shadow, and repeating over the game’s many, many levels.
The very best part is that you’re also given a sword early on and expected to hack awkwardly at enemy shadows that stand in your way. Truly, I can’t think of a game in recent memory in which I wanted to engage in combat less, yet the game throws enemy after enemy at you, allowing you to dispatch them with your three-attack combo. Again, it all feels like busywork. There’s absolutely no difficulty to the combat, and the incredibly slow attack speed will have you standing around hacking at your foes and wishing you could just get on with the damn game already.
But even that feeling goes away once you realize that there’s nothing more to see. This happens after about four hours of this ten to twelve hour game (depending on your ability to put away the completionist in you, you could end up spending twenty or more). The game even throws in some 3D action by allowing you to leave the world of shadows and live as a body of light for a few moments, and even this fails to feel fresh. This is mostly because the only reason to enter the world of light is to hit a switch to allow you to progress further in the shadow world. So, yeah, it’s like doing your job with the light on rather than in the dark. And in 3D. Yeah.
And even with all this, the game continues to fail. The control is incredibly bad — your character floats around like a cow on ice, never seeming to be able to stop when you want him to, and constantly falling short when you want him to jump correctly. This is made a lot worse when you start moving shadows at different angles; since you can’t rely on a shadow to tell you when you’re going to land, you just have to try to predict the angle at which your shadow will fall. An interesting idea that leads to nothing but frustration. And when you get to those 3D sections? Don’t walk behind an object or anything, because the camera win’t adjust itself at all, and you’ll probably end up walking off a platform or something.
For a moment, I actually thought this game was going to provide me with an interesting and well-told story. The game begins by showing your character as a human boy who has his shadow cut from his body and cast to the bottom of a tower. You’re tasked with climbing to the top of the tower and reclaiming your body. Throughout this, you come across “memories” which are supposed to tell a story, but they don’t. Sometimes, they just say something like “too blurry to read,” which really make you feel good about all of the work you did to reach them. Other times, they just say something that is supposed to pass for actual story, but in reality you’re just getting statements that make you feel annoyed that they didn’t put an actual story in.
This game should have been four hours long (at maximum), had no combat, and should have been dependent entirely upon moving shadows to solve actual puzzles. How the game missed that so entirely is a wonder, and the fact that the puzzles feel so lazy is a testament to this one enduring fact: if you’re going to take a great idea, you’d better be damn sure you do something valuable with it. Lost in Shadow doesn’t.
The game's presentation feels empty and lazy. The storytelling is barely present, and while some environments look better than others, they're mostly sparse and uninteresting.
|How does our scoring system work?|
The movement is really atrocious, and while the idea of manipulating shadows is a great one, the puzzle design is so unintelligent that progress feels like work, not fun.
Lost in Shadow's minimalistic approach fails where Limbo's succeeded. The sound doesn't contribute in any way to the atmosphere, making the game just sound empty.
The game is actually fairly long, coming in at about 10 hours. However, it's also extremely short on variety.
Lost in Shadow commits what I consider to be gaming's cardinal sin: taking a great idea and using its originality up in a bad game. This is a real waste.