Wii

North America

ShadowPlay

by Grant Buell - February 21, 2010, 5:10 pm PST
Total comments: 1

7

Shadow puppets without the puppets part.

ShadowPlay is something new. Eliciting feelings similar to those you got as a kid when you realized that creepy shadow on your bedroom wall was just your baseball glove hanging on your bedpost, Deep Fried Entertainment's WiiWare title is about shapes, perspective, and how they interact. The game is based on one of the simplest game concepts you can find: manipulate objects such that their shadows create a certain image on a wall. It relies on fun, intuitive and responsive motion controls (made possible by Wii MotionPlus) to eliminate the divide between the screen and your hands. ShadowPlay mostly succeeds, but there are things that could have been done with this gameplay mechanic that simply aren't realized here.

ShadowPlay features 100 puzzles, each one consisting of a set of everyday objects such as basketballs, knives, frying pans and clothespins, and a shape outlined on a projector screen in front of you. The puzzles are divided into category by shape, and they depict things like animals, vehicles, sports equipment, and more. The goal is to complete each puzzle be making your shadows match the outline to a certain degree of accuracy.

As the puzzles progress, the shapes outlined on the projector screen become more and more complex and require the use of more and more objects to match them. The way the game determines how "close" you are to the shape on screen is never really explained - it simply gives you a chime once you've gotten close enough to pass the level, and an icon in the corner turns bronze, silver or gold, depending on your degree of accuracy. The game keeps track of which medals you've achieved for each puzzle, as well as the fastest time in which you were able to complete it.

Once you grab an object from the edge of the screen, it floats in midair in front of you, projecting its shadow on the projector screen. You never see the light source itself, as that's behind the view of the camera. It's your job to grab the object with the A button and either move it around in front of the screen, or rotate it by tapping the B button and rotating the remote. This is where the real magic of the game is - the object smoothly and quickly rotates on all 3 axes in exactly the same way your remote is rotating (this method of rotation only applies if you are using Wii MotionPlus, but you can still play the game if you don't). If you find yourself needing to rotate an object farther than your wrist will allow, you can simply tap B again to get out of rotation mode, move your hand to a more comfortable position, and tap B again to start rotation mode back up.

A helpful trick that I discovered a few puzzles in is to orient your remote along the axis of the object you're manipulating - that is, if you're rotating something long like an umbrella or a fork, rotate your Wii remote to match the 3D orientation of the object on screen, and THEN press B to activate rotation mode. It's much easier to rotate an object accurately if the object in your hand matches the object on screen; so much so that it would be helpful to somehow be alerted to this fact, encouraging you to get your remote in the correct position before starting rotation mode.

As fun and intuitive as the control scheme is, the game doesn't really change from the first puzzle to the last, and a sense of repetition quickly sets in. One opportunity that was missed is the ability to animate your creations by moving the Wii Remote; this is closer to the concept of "shadow puppets", and a lot of puzzle possibilities could have been opened up.

Another problem to be aware of is the fact that ShadowPlay really doesn't work without MotionPlus. If you don't have it, you can still rotate objects with the Nunchuk, but this requires a very unintuitive and awkward setup, as you have to hold down C or Z to select a certain axis on which to rotate, using the control stick to turn the object. It feels wonky and uncomfortable, and frankly they should have removed the possibility altogether by making the game explicitly require Wii MotionPlus. I would hate to be the guy without MotionPlus who downloads this game based on what seems like a cool concept.

The graphics are simple but well done; each of the objects you manipulate looks fairly realistic, and the lighting is clear and precise. Each puzzle's projector screen has a nice background suited to the puzzle theme, like a sports arena for a sports-themed puzzle, or an aquatic theme for a water animal puzzle. The projector screen's surroundings are modeled to resemble an old low-budget movie theater. The look is simple and unassuming, but lacks a bit of color and flair.

Sound effects in this game range from bleeps and bloops to indicate when you've selected an object or a menu item, and a little thematic "payoff" sound effect when you've completed a puzzle, such as a duck quacking once you've finished creating a duck on the screen. The music is ridiculously repetitive, with one short cartoon-mystery-style song playing during each of the puzzles. In a game that requires a lot of looking at the same screen and making multiple slow, subtle movements to complete a puzzle, a little soundtrack variation would have gone a long way to spice up the experience.

Beyond the 100 puzzles themselves, there is a also a Free Play mode in which you can choose from 29 different objects to create whatever shape you want on the wall. This is fun for a few moments, but there's no permanence to your creations. The ability to take a screenshot of the shapes to create here and send it to your Wii in a message would have greatly improved this option. As it is, once you've made a shape here, all you can do is get rid of it and make a new one. There is some replay value in going for gold medals and quicker puzzle completion times, however.

The value of ShadowPlay boils down to its controls and concept. Manipulating objects in 3D space feels perfect here. This is the sort of thing I imagined doing on the Wii since it was first announced. It's unfortunate that no one is really taking a similar mechanic of complex object manipulation and creating a truly varied game with it. This game nails the control aspect, but what you're doing with it is ultimately too simple and repetitive. It almost feels like a long tech demo, showing off the capabilities of Wii MotionPlus but lacking a robust game design to support them. Still, there is pleasure to be had here, and there's certainly nothing else like it out there.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 6 7.5 6.5 7 7
Graphics
7.5

The game features realistic objects and good lighting, but there's just not much color or animation to be found.

Sound
6

Completing a puzzle rewards you with a nice, thematic sound effect, but the soundtrack is way too repetitive; one song isn't enough.

Control
7.5

They nailed the controls here, assuming you have Wii MotionPlus. Rotating the objects on screen feels like second nature. Stay far away if you don't have MotionPlus, however.

Gameplay
6.5

ShadowPlay is a cool concept and occasionally offers very challenging puzzles, but there's just not enough variation. Every puzzle plays exactly the same, only with a different level of difficulty.

Lastability
7

Free Play gives you some freedom to make your own creations outside of the included puzzles, but there's no way to save them. Going for the gold medals and beating your previous completion times gives a bit of replay value.

Final
7

Go for ShadowPlay if you want to see a perfect demonstration of what Wii MotionPlus can do, and if you want a simple, relaxing puzzle game to pass the time. Just don't expect the gameplay to change as you progress.

Summary

Pros
  • Lots of puzzles
  • Unique, simple game concept
  • Wonderful intuitive motion controls, assuming you have Wii MotionPlus
Cons
  • Not enough gameplay variation
  • No way to save your Free Play creations
  • Very repetitive soundtrack
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

This game sounds interesting, but I don't think I'll be biting on it. It's a cool idea, though.

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Genre Puzzle
Developer Deep Fried Entertainment Inc.
Players1 - 2
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: ShadowPlay
Release Jan 11, 2010
PublisherDeep Fried Entertainment Inc.
RatingEveryone

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