Giant Bomb Review

36 Comments

Lost in Shadow Review

3
  • Wii

Lost in Shadow is a game that makes a great first impression, but ultimately cannot build on that initial momentum, nor recognize when to quit.

We spend a lot of time looking at a game's length as some kind of quantifiable measurement of value to a product, but in truth, a long game does not necessarily equal a better game. Take Lost in Shadow, a new platformer from Hudson which revolves around an unusual concept: as the detached shadow of a young boy, you can only traverse the shadows of objects in the three-dimensional realm. This is a game with a novel idea, and one that, for a while, feels fresh and fascinating. But as hours pass and the game continues on, that once fresh feeling eventually gives way to monotony. Its fitful attempts to evolve the experience do little to break up hours upon hours of merely solid and largely unremarkable platforming levels that feel like little more than the filler required to make this a retail, disc-based product, and not a digitally released title.

It's a shame, because Lost in Shadow most certainly piques one's curiosity from the get-go, albeit not through any form of narrative. You know little going into Lost in Shadow, beyond an opening cutscene that depicts a brutish executioner slicing a boy's shadow from his body, and tossing it from the top of an absurdly tall tower. You, the shadow, awake at the bottom, and with the help of an inexplicable fairy that wordlessly appears and begins assisting you, your goal is to get to the top of that tower... and then go back down... and then unexpectedly keep on going until the game just up and decides to end.

The shadows of the environment are your platforms.
Don't expect much explanation for any of what's happening here. Lost in Shadow employs a narrative style that makes Limbo look like a Hideo Kojima joint. With such a dearth of narrative, the developers seem keen instead on hooking you with this notion of shadow trickery; and for a time, it works exceptionally well. You learn quickly that the foreground, at least in the early goings, is simply a means to an end. The objects in the real world are only useful to you in the context of the shadows they cast. Traversal of the world requires these shadows to be manipulated via adjustments to the scenery and light, which you do by using the Wii remote to identify and select adjustable sections. When you start to get a handle on how to manipulate the world and get around, it's one of those great "a-ha!" moments that often turn a game from merely intriguing to downright brilliant.

Sadly, that moment passes, and brilliance never comes to fruition. While the game's method of shadow puppetry intrigues at the outset, malaise begins to set in after several hours of repetitive gameplay--and then gets piled on after even more hours of that seemingly endless repetition. The best platformers find a way to ramp up the difficulty slowly, methodically, with a key understanding of what the player has experienced early on, and building upon those experiences. Lost in Shadow more or less does the same thing again, and again, and again, for hours on end with only periodic bouts of difficulty peppered in at random moments. The level designs start out interestingly enough, but fail to evolve into anything more than a shadowy riff on the same sorts of platforming gimmicks you've seen done a billion times before.

The game toys with some variety, offering up shadow corridors, which twist physics in some interesting ways, and light gates, which turn your shadow into a glowing, three-dimensional being that can navigate the foreground for a limited time--but little is done with these concepts outside of the same repetitive gimmicks over and over again. True cleverness simply seems to elude Lost in Shadow, and its few brushes with it come so late in the game that some people will have likely given up before they get anywhere near these moments.

 Light gates let you venture out into the three-dimensional realm for short periods.
There is simply no sense of pace to Lost in Shadow. Most of the game is relatively breezy, with true difficulty only appearing at random intervals. I got stuck on maybe a handful of puzzles over the course of the game's storyline. Those moments of perplexity often came out of nowhere, and were usually followed up by more of the same rote action I'd been enduring for hours prior. Only bouts of haphazard combat are thrown in to try and break up the action. Combat, however, is not this game's strong suit. Your shadow can only attack in short bursts, and there's no block mechanic to speak of, meaning you're forced to stab-and-run a whole bunch until something is dead. Not difficult, since the enemies rarely put up much of a fight, but the clumsy-feeling controls, coupled with a miserable checkpoint system, lead to a lot irritating, accidental death, followed up by annoying rehashing of lengthy level sections.

Before eventually submitting to tedium, Lost in Shadow is an easy game to like. It shows you a stellar idea (that it sadly proceeds to squander) and offers up a visual aesthetic that is absolutely pleasing to look at. The way light and shadow are depicted and played off one another are great, and while the art style owes a great deal to Team ICO--like, Hudson should probably just cut those guys a check now and get it over with--it's a particularly pretty derivation that stands out among many of the best-looking Wii games.

As I trudged through hour after hour of Lost in Shadow's adventure, a singular, pervasive thought cycled through my head: I wished this game were shorter. Besides the combat, there's nothing particularly awful or busted-feeling to endure, but the middling nature of the platforming becomes a tiring slog as the game goes on, and on, and on, refusing to lean on anything but its novel concept. If the developers had cut things down to maybe half (or even a quarter) of its current length, and focused on polishing up the game's best, cleverest levels, Lost in Shadow might've had a chance of standing out as something legitimately special. Alex Navarro on Google+
36 Comments
Posted by dragonzord

reverse limbo!

Posted by kiyseph

I was interested in this game. Even with it's flaws, I'll still give it a rent.

Posted by bassman2112

Eek, I had ordered this for my girlfriend (she loves these kinds of games)
 
Well... She really adores visual style (she's an artist in a pre-med program haha) so perhaps she'll appreciate that more than anything =) Then again, she has a long attention span so maybe she won't get tired of it haha
 
Thanks for the review!!

Posted by nohthink

lol the first review of 2011 is by Alex Navarro. He might as well be a giantbomb crew at this point... or is he? I don't even know anymore lol

Posted by WJist

That's...really a bummer.

Posted by SSully

I remember seeing a video of someone demoing the tech for a game very similar to this at GDC about 3 years ago. I could have sworn it was some random indie title, idk if this is it, or if someone just got ripped off pretty badly. 

Posted by masterdilh

neat

Posted by sixpin

Good review. I still want to check this out at some point, but I doubt I'll ever get the time to invest. Bummer that Wii games don't typically get put on markdown as often as some other console's titles.

Posted by Getz

This is really disappointing. In theory, the Wii should be a haven for quirky, visually stimulating games but developers just don't seem to want to put in the work needed to make a truly great game. It's like they're all too afraid to devote resources to a Wii project because most of them have failed in the past. 

Posted by MisterMouse

a bummer, but at the same time it is not surprising it runs out of steam at the end... it is hard to keep something like this going for a long time

Posted by Aetheldod

I see what Navarro points at , I usually was of the "the more the merrier" but nowadays in many games is just a chore and not fun , this game tho never picked my interest and I always saw it as "we wanna do Ico stuff" rippoff

Posted by Chuck_

Since Alex is reviewing so many games, he should be on the Bombcast more. At least in the "Watcha been playin?" segment.

Online
Posted by MrCellophane

Goddamnit Alex, get rating avatars! I want to be able to conclude everything about a game just by looking at your face!!

Posted by nickux

This seems like it would have been better off as a shorter, cheaper, PSN/XBLA/WiiWare game. Good idea that works best in small doses. 

Edited by beard_of_zeus

Nice informative review Alex.
 
I was very interested in this game when they first announced it. It's a shame that it only seems to have a couple of ideas that it runs with for far too long. Sounds like some sort of weird alternate universe version of Limbo.
 
I would normally be willing to still give a game like this a fair shake, but I already have a ton of games to play already though, and I've gotten to the point in my life where time is the bottleneck on what games I can play, not money, as it was when I was younger. I can't really afford to trudge through a long, repetitive game like this. Perhaps that's why I often find myself in the minority of the value = length argument referenced in this review. Developers don't need to pad out their games unnecessarily like that. Give me a well-paced, tightly crafted experience and I'll be happy.

Posted by anon463728

Although I have not yet finished Lost in Shadow, I totally agree with this review. The game is definitely too long and repetitive, therefore, I decided to play it in small bursts.
Posted by matti00

Bloody hell, how long ago was the Quick Look for this? Took a while to go up

Posted by chriskelly123

nice alex :)

Posted by iWonder

Arghhhh, what a huge disappointment. Was REALLY looking forward to this. Still might check it out though... just might gamefly it as opposed to buying it.

Posted by Zabant

Holy shit, i remember the QL for this months ago!
 
Awesome review alex, nice to see films haven't ruined your video games reviewer skillz

Posted by tourgen

too bad, I was hoping to start the year off with a good puzzle platformer

Posted by RagingLion
@MrCellophane said:
" Goddamnit Alex, get rating avatars! I want to be able to conclude everything about a game just by looking at your face!! "
This would be pretty cool.  It's more than just the odd review that come from Alex now and that might make this worthwhile, though maybe there won't be too much until the next holiday season/sports title.
 
I was really liking what I saw in the QL so it's a shame that the density of quality isn't maintained.  Show's why the constant pruning in something like Braid is so valuable.
Posted by bybeach

I was pulling for this game, though I'd never play it. I do not have a Wii. 
 
oh well, a good idea.. or even a bunch of them, and implentation of such have often tended to be pretty much 2 seperate endeavors.
Posted by MetalBaofu
@matti00 said:
" Bloody hell, how long ago was the Quick Look for this? Took a while to go up "
Yeah...that quick look was a while ago.  I don't know if it was a quick look of a demo or what, but the game just came out last week(Jan. 4th) in NA.
Posted by Deusoma

For all the time he spends railing on the game being too long, at no point does he actually attach a number to its length. Odd.

Posted by Alex
@Deusoma: 
 
It's like 15 hours or so.
Staff
Posted by RubberFactory

This game would of been perfect as a shorter downloadable title.

Posted by TwistedGamer
@matti00 said:
" Bloody hell, how long ago was the Quick Look for this? Took a while to go up "
the quicklook was a demo
Posted by BBQBram

Shame, seemed interesting.

Posted by Pabba

Certainly is a unique looking game visually and for its game mechanics. But I'm still not sold on it...
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Posted by EgoCheck616

Wow. Everything I saw of this left me with the impression that it was / should have been a PSN / XBLA release. 
But a Wii disk? Come on, now.

Posted by RVonE

Nice review. I guess I'm not going to pick this one up.
Posted by PatVB

That's too bad, I had high hopes for this game after seeing th Quicklook.

Posted by vinsanityv22

That's a shame - I trust you, Alex (you got me to buy Kirby's Epic Yarn! So, thank you), so I suppose I won't be buying this. Or, maybe I'll Gamefly it? Maybe get it much later in the year when it's only about 15 bucks? But it sounds like it's repetitive and gets monotonous. 
 
Not to mention, last year taught me a thing or two about game length. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow should've had about 30% removed, and MercurySteam should've refined the remaining content. Hell, you go through like 3-4 chapters before hitting your first castle! Meanwhile, Vanquish is amazing, yet the in game timer says I only played it for 4 hours. Which is a)worthless, because the experience is amazing, and b)you end up replaying a ton because of deaths and hunting for better scores. Short games with a great flow and a refined experience are worth far more than a padded out game that gets monotonous.

Posted by danimal_furry

Sounds like a proof of concept game. Maybe they can put what they learn from this one to make a more enjoyable second.

Posted by Eyz

I really loved this game!
Had it, been playing since december (we had an earlier release date in Europe)
I find it a sort of...Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia quality! Particulary around its second half!