A Shadow’s Tale
With the third-party Wii bubble long since burst, inventive games are becoming much less frequent on the console, and we’re repeatedly surprised that any publisher is willing to take a chance on anything other than a dancing game or a Spice Girl-endorsed exercise routine. A Shadow’s Tale thankfully bucks the trend, however, with not only an original IP but also an original premise, a puzzle-platform game in which you can only jump and climb across the shadows of the objects in the foreground.
It’s easy to get carried away amidst the drought of truly inventive Wii software, and praise A Shadow’s Tale based on its unique concept alone. But it does have some initial flaws that it would be irresponsible to ignore. Though the game starts out well, slowly introducing the basic concepts such as shadow platforming, the need to find and collect three glyphs to complete a stage, and the various ways in which shadows can be manipulated to your advantage, these strong first impressions soon give way to frustration as the combat elements are introduced.
Perfunctory swordplay mechanics hardly lend themselves to enjoyable combat, and you get the feeling that enemies have been added just to slow down progress through the puzzles. Worse still, combat is extremely tough at first, and causes many deaths that lead to frequent retries and repetition of puzzles you’ve solved many times before.
It’s only once you’ve levelled up your shadow, using persistent Dead Rising-style experience points, that combat settles into a manageable difficulty level, that the game allows you to enjoy the puzzles. These start off simply enough, with your Wii Remote used to directly interact with on-screen objects, moving and rotating them in order to change the position and shape of the shadow platforms, but they soon increase in complexity and imagination. Some allow you to kill enemies without directly engaging them, for example, while others protect you from harm, such as the challenge that sees you move one shadow in front of an arbalest to block its deadly shadow arrows.
The true highlights of A Shadow’s Tale come in the compulsory void levels; small, self-contained challenges that dispense with enemies and focus on tightly designed puzzles reminiscent of Echochrome. Level rotation – using forced perspective to create new paths – is the dominant form of puzzling on offer, while later levels require the light source to be altered through a slider in order to move the platforms, or that a lightbulb be swung in order to create shadow-platforms that sway from side to side for extra challenge.