Lost in Shadow‘s demo hints at an enigmatic game, with little introduction or exposition. The opening scene depicts a huge tower, like one from a steampunk novel. A boy is held between two columns as a caped figure with a mask appears and approaches him. He pulls out a strange-looking sword and attacks. You then see him carrying away the boy’s shadow by it’s throat, and he tosses it down to the world below.
The shadow then comes to life on its own in a garden just outside the tower. A shadow fairy named Spangle follows him as the boy heads towards the tower in the hopes of reuniting with his body.
From there, I had to guide the boy to the tower’s entrance and up to the 9th floor. This initial area, which consisted of a garden, tram station, entrance, and a few tower floors, seemed to act as a tutorial. There weren’t any terribly difficult areas in the Lost in Shadow demo. My first fifteen minutes with the game was spent getting acquainted with the boy and Spangle’s abilities.
Lost in Shadow‘s controls are easy to learn. Initially, all the boy can do is move, crawl, read memories, and jump. Only the nunchuk directional stick, Z and A buttons are needed. Shortly after getting to the tower, he acquires the shadow of a rusty sword, which allows players to use the attack shadow monsters or hit certain switches with the B button.
Motion control comes into play when Spangle is needed. If your path is blocked during, point the Wii remote at the screen to see if there’s anything Spangle can help with. Once the Spangle icon appears, you hold the B button needs to see if there are any triggers for Spangle to move. If there are, Spangle will lock onto and pressing B makes something move to create new shadows. While it may initially seem like it just creates new platforms or removes blocked paths, later the boy rides on these shadows while Spangle moves them to continue climbing up.
Spangle can shift the light source in levels to make new areas accessible. In the demo I played, for example, there was a Monitor Eye that could only be reached if I shifted the light source to create a lower platform. When I could change the light source, a bar would appear horizontally along the bottom or vertically at the right for Spangle to adjust.
Tower traversing seemed deceptively simple. At the end of certain floors and areas, there will be a shadow wall. The only way to make it dissipate is to collect three Monitor Eyes that are hidden throughout the area. If the eyes aren’t collected, the boy will be damaged when he touches the walls. Taking damage isn’t too devastating, as long as memories are collected. The memories are hazy sparkles that can be read by pressing the Z button over them. From what I saw, they were mainly the boy’s thoughts, or offered hints about what could happen next in the level. When the boy reads a message, his shadow grows heavier and his health increases. There are 90 memories in all to collect, but most of the initial ones I encountered didn’t reveal much about the boy, the tower, Spangle or Lost in Shadow‘s world. Health is also restored as the boy journeys through each area. When enemies are defeated, some of the boy’s energy will be restored. Also, upon entering a Shadow Corridor, the boy may encounter a fountain which restores HP.
This is helpful, since the Shadow Corridors are gateways to separate areas scattered throughout the tower. Once entered, the boy gains access to an alternate world where players have more control over shadows. When I was playing I encountered one Shadow Corridor where I could change the direction of the room (and its shadows) by pressing the directional pad on the Wii remote. In another, I could move a lamp to make shadows move, so the boy could leap over a gap that was previously too wide. It was tricky though, as in both examples the boy could be crushed by moving shadows or fall if suddenly a shadow platform shifted and disappeared.
The regular tower isn’t exactly a safe haven. The tower is filled with monsters and traps. Some of these shadow monsters are even more dangerous, because the boy can’t harm them. Red-eyed monsters are no threat, as they can be eliminated with a few swipes of the sword, but blue-eyed monsters can only be destroyed by luring them into one of the tower’s traps.
Lost in Shadow does left quite an impression and offers an interesting take on the platformer genre. Keep an eye out for it in stores in January 2011.
Food for Thought
- There are three difficulty levels – Easy, Normal and Hard.
- If you enter the pause menu, you can see where you are and how much of the tower you’ve explored.
- The pause menu also lets you go back and review all the memories you’ve collected.
- There’s no background music in the demo, aside from an opening theme song. You just hear sound effects from the world.
- There are special areas where the boy’s shadow can interact with the real world, but I didn’t get to experience it in the demo.