All at once, I’m excited and worried about Lost in Shadow. This sweet little title was well worth the time I blindly tossed into it, but it’s likely doomed to an existence steeped in obscurity on the Wii. I’m not looking to drag my soapbox in front of the Wii’s bad track record when it comes to third party efforts, but the facts stand tall enough not to be ignored. This game, this gem, will probably be missed by most Wii owners.
And that’s a damn shame.
Lost in Shadow has this familiar sense of hollowness to it. The game feels empty, deserted, peaceful. It’s not, though. There’s dangers, grand scale and spirit here; but, it just arrives with this refreshing sense of simplicity that makes it feel like a featherweight compared to the heavy hitters out there. It’s pleasant, unique and straightforward.
Players play the part of a boy’s shadow. At the game’s onset, the boy is imprisoned atop a humongous tower and stripped of his shadow. The shadow, with a life of its own, is drug to the tower’s edge and tossed off to the ground far below. Players control the shadow as it ascends the tower in order to reunite with its body.
You’ll fight monsters, upgrade your health, contort the environment and solve puzzles as you make your way up. Slap those mechanics onto any other premise and you’re staring directly at your average adventure game. This ain’t your average adventure game.
The shadow can only interact with shadows. You’ll see normal surfaces in the foreground, but you’ll only be able to traverse their shadows. Grabbing light sources, rotating objects and twisting the rooms drastically change the way shadows are cast and, thus, the paths you can take. You’ll need to make use of some increasingly clever tools and puzzles in order to collect what you need to pass each level and climb the tower.
While the simplicity of this game warrants a heap of praise, the attempt at storytelling is a bit of a misfit. Players will walk over objects in levels labelled memories, a little text window will pop up and a bit of the story will ensue. It’s boring and unnecessary. Honestly, the game would have been better had these pieces just been left out entirely. The premise is far too simple to be cluttered with text based storytelling.
The art style could also be considered, mostly, a success. Shadows move and react appropriately, the lighting is proper given the platform, the textures are about as muddy as one would expect. However, character models are rough and jagged. At times, the visuals can look extremely dated, even ugly. It’s a bit of an awkward look to love. On one hand, the ugliness fits the minimal, empty nature of the game, on the other it’s just plain tough to look at.
Combat can be very awkward. In fact, that’s this game’s largest slight. This adventure could have been accomplished with very little swordplay, but there’s always a few baddies lying around to tussle with. It’s just clumsy, bulky and clanky. This is a flaw that stands out largely because of the simple presentation that surrounds it. Most gamers may wish the combat away entirely.
If you own a Wii, don’t ignore Lost in Shadow. Understand that the game arrives with its own set of flaws, but it does so on the wings of a unique, clever and inventive beast. This title will harken die-hards back to classics like Shadow of the Colossus. Does it live as largely? No. But it’s still exceptional in its own right.
Don’t pass this one up.