Hudson brings us a puzzling platformer that could stand some fleshing out.
In Lost in Shadow, the latest platforming adventure from Hudson, you play as the shadow of a boy trying to recover both his body and his memory. The game takes place in a mysterious tower, with the foreground shifting and turning as the camera sees fit.
Light sources cast shadows in the background, providing platforms for your shadowy character to climb on, and plenty of puzzles to solve. The majority of gameplay progression involves shifting items in the foreground to change the shadows in the background. This is largely done via the Wii Remote pointer.
As you move the pointer around the screen you will see objects in the foreground sparkle, and if you hold down the B button on these objects for a few seconds you can make them move to give your character a clearer path forward. Along the way, the shadow boy finds a sword which can be used with the B button. Enemies take the form of shadow beasts, with some being recognizable like spiders while others are completely alien in form. The combat strategy for all of them is the same: sneak in and strike, then retreat. As you defeat enemies, you level up and get a stronger attack; however, you also come across stronger enemies as you go, giving your leveling the feeling of being inconsequential. The enemies do provide an ever-present danger, but combat is largely unsatisfying, as there is no variation to the types of battles with the various beasts.
The visual presentation is sometimes stunning, as the shadows change shape depending on the angle of the surface that they're being reflected on. Unfortunately, the lack of moving light sources to cause actual bouncing shadows seems like a missed opportunity. Because of the nature of shadows, your character is rarely the same shape twice, which is a fun effect. The audio presentation, however, is fairly uninteresting. Ambient noise along with some dissonant chords fills the stages, attempting to provide an unsettling atmosphere with little success.
The game controls with the Remote and Nunchuk, without any gesture-based controls entering into the picture. The pointer is used almost constantly as you try to find objects to interact with in the foreground, which prevents the obvious implementation of alternate control mechanics. Occasionally, the lack of precision from the analog stick can make the platform jumping feel more precarious than necessary. An option to use the classic controller would have been nice, if another solution for foreground manipulation could be found.
Lost In Shadow will take you 12-15 hours on an initial playthrough, far too long for a game with as little variation in scenery and gameplay as it provides. The bulk of the game has you scaling a giant tower, and reaching the top of the tower would feels like the natural time for a conclusion. Instead you are sent on a lengthy fetch quest, before being shipped off to another 15 floors before you can truly complete the game. A new gameplay mechanic is finally introduced as you approach the very top of the tower, but it feels like a too-little-too-late addition to the game. It's really only after this happens that the game's premise of being able to truly interact both with the shadows and the foreground really takes shape, but it arrives much too far into the game.
While it's nice that the developers made sure the game didn't end too soon, it is far longer than it needed to be. Lost In Shadow overstays its welcome, which is disappointing. If the game had been less ambitious in scale and more ambitious in content, it would perhaps be one of the best games in recent memory. Instead, it falls just short of something truly great.