The Story of the Silhouette.
Review written by
September 8th, 2011
Videogame is a synthesis of two words - 'video' and 'game'. Since the advent of CDs, many developers have emphasized the former, sometimes to the detriment of the latter. A Shadow's Tale (Lost in Shadow in the NTSC region) is a welcome step in the opposite direction: a game that concentrates on gameplay, though without neglecting the video aspect.
The gameplay in A Shadow's Tale is a skilful combination of three genres - platformer, RPG and puzzle game. The main character, the silhouette of a young boy, runs, climbs and leaps across the shadows of various buildings and objects in his quest to ascend a mysterious tower; he gains experience (which raises his attack power) by slaying its shady denizens and increases the weight of his soul (which serves as health in the game) by discovering memories. Aided by a silent fairy (called a spangle), he can also activate various mechanisms and, in certain cases, alter the lighting. At times, the puzzle and platform elements intersect, notably in two situations where the player must execute a precisely timed jump while rotating a platform in order to reach a ledge just above his normal reach. Although at first sight, it might seem a simple side-scroller, the addition of new features through the course of play along with its general gameplay mechanic ensure that A Shadow's Tale remains an absorbing experience from start to finish.
One of the features that deserves particular mention is the Shadow Corridor - a special puzzle zone which, if successfully completed, serves as a save point within the level, (the game normally saves one's progress at the end of the level). These mini-levels, which often showcase the game's leitmotif of light and shadow, constitute a valuable addition to the overall experience, and may be replayed via the main menu.
The graphics are noteworthy, uniting detailed foregrounds and backgrounds with crisp, sharp shadows. The various zones of the tower - factories, residential area, shrine, etc.. are quite distinct and memorable; all contribute well to the overall atmosphere of the title. An even greater contribution to the game's sombre and occasionally sublime, ambience is provided by the audio. The music is perfectly suited to the various levels, whilst its lofty main theme encapsulates the essence of A Shadow's Tale. The game's sound effects - ranging from the movement of machinery to the death throes of foes, are excellent and comprise one of its many endearing elements.
The storyline is quite minimalist: the player discovers the purpose of his quest in the course of the game, but nothing more. This is in keeping with the austere nature of A Shadow's Tale, which eschews all extravagance in favour of concentrating on gameplay and atmosphere. Regarding the latter, the memories the shadow collects are particularly valuable, as they provide insights into main character's thoughts at various points of the game. There are ninety of them in total, which will keep the player occupied for some time, since many are hidden in earlier levels. (Unfortunately, the austere nature of the game extends to its weaponry; one area of improvement would be to add a ranged weapon to the arsenal since all combat in A Shadow's Tale is melee.)
In contrast to many contemporary titles that emphasize the sensational and the spectacular, A Shadow's Tale is, like its protagonist, serious and silent. Its central theme of a solitary struggle against the forces of darkness, is both inspiring and riveting; and for this reviewer, completing the quest was nothing less than a spiritual experience, thanks to its finely-crafted conclusion. Other games amused my mind; this one stirred my soul.
I would love to see more videogames like this.
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