Author Topic: Lost in Shadow: Review and discussion  (Read 3144 times)

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Offline Adrock

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Lost in Shadow: Review and discussion
« on: August 14, 2011, 07:53:00 PM »
I bought this game a couple weeks ago at Best Buy for $15.

The short version: buy this game.......... for $15.

It took me about 17 hours to beat this game with 100%. That's less than $1 per hour of gameplay. Not bad, except the game was actually too long. The gameplay isn't varied enough to justify its length. More on that later. You don't get the first weapon until like half an hour into the game. And based on the story, there was no reason you shouldn't have been given the best weapon in the beginning of the game. If the mysterious knight and the fairy stripped the boy's shadow from him for the sole purpose of having him traverse the large tower to destroy the giant shadow monster, why wouldn't they just make it leagues easier for him and give him the ominous Shadow Cutter right from the get-go instead of making him stumble upon it 45 minutes before the end? They placed 2 other swords all over the tower for the boy to find. Why put the strongest weapon so far out of reach? No reason is given. Comparatively to say Zelda (which Lost in Shadow borrows a lot from), the plot usually explains why you don't just get the Master Sword immediately and start smiting evil left and right. Lost in Shadow's non-explanation managed to be worse than Other M's permission based system.

That's another issue. The minimalist story is confusing. Lost in Shadow's storytelling is intentionally vague, but it's not simple enough to get away with it. Let's compare its plot to Ico, a game Lost in Shadow desperately wants to be in more ways than one, including and especially its method of storytelling. In Ico, soldiers from a nearby village escort a boy, Ico, to a mysterious castle and regrettably seal him in a sarcophagus. He escapes, stumbles upon a princess, Yorda, who speaks a language he doesn't understand. Because Ico is a pimp mack daddy, he resolves to take her along and find a way out. Ico meets Yorda's mother, the Queen, who admits her plan to extend her life by possessing her daughter's body. Ico finds a magic sword; vanquishes the Queen. Evil is punished. The end.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in Ico. Who's the Queen? Is Yorda her real daughter? And many more. However, the story is structured in a way that none of it matters. Ico has no idea what Yorda or the Queen are saying to him. His goal is to escape. The player identifies Ico as a good-hearted person because he chooses to save Yorda for no reason other than it's the right thing to do. The game is telling the player not to worry about the other stuff because it's not important. It tells you what you need to know. Lost in Shadow begins in much the same way with a singular goal: the boy wants his body back. A few chapters are littered with a short series of still frame images that reveal some plot but not enough to actually say anything of concrete or substantial. Unlike Ico (and worse for it), Lost in Shadow keeps hinting at something greater, but without the payoff. More tidbits are revealed in random, mostly emo "memories" that the boy finds along the way. Again, not enough to say anything of value. Some are "too blurry to read" which makes me wonder what the hell the point of that was. Collecting things in videogames is annoying.

The memories aspect is actually kind of cool, despite their aforementioned emo-ness. Health is measured in the boy's shadow's weight and through the memories that are found scattered around the tower, you eventually collect up to 21 grams which, in case you didn't know, is based on a theory of how much the soul weighs according to an old study of weighing dying patients right before and right after death (they apparently lost an average of 21 grams upon death). So, the story likens the shadow to the soul and thus, Lost in Shadow is, in a way, about reuniting soul and body. Deep stuff. If I understand correctly, the memories are from past shadows of the boy who failed to progress. The game over screen hints at this as well. Every time you die, the knight and fairy send another shadow to complete the task of destroying the Shadow Monster trapped/wreaking havoc in the tower. Too bad everything else makes no sense or requires way too much interpretation to be enjoyable. There's also a major plot hole: At one point, the fairy hovers idly as the boy (in light form) gets dragged into a portal/doorway which then closes. The boy is now separated from the fairy, yet the fairy appears in the next level. Don't get me started on the ending.......

But enough about the story, the main problem with the game is that the you do pretty much the same thing the entire game, aside from 3 or 4 "race to finish" style levels. Solve the same kinds of puzzles, avoid the same traps, kill the same enemies (there are maybe 10 or so varieties in the game). About 3/4 of the way through Hudson decided to add a completely new gameplay mechanic which is foreshadowed within the first half hour of the game. Through special gates, the boy is granted a body made of light and can interact with the real world. These short segments are played on a 3D plane (while the majority of the action is played in 2D on the shadows of structures along the walls). The switching of planes mechanic worked surprisingly well. I just wished it was introduced sooner. When it is introduced, the game forces you to go back down the tower on a fetch quest. It's similar to Metroid Prime's Chozo Artifact quest except in Lost in Shadow, everything looks the same and backtracking isn't as easy.

Additionally, there are 40 mini side levels called "Shadow Corridors" that use many of the same gameplay mechanics as the tower (using the fairy with the Wii remote to adjust light to change the height/width of shadows, move gates/platforms etc.). Some, however, include an additional Shadow Corridor-only gameplay mechanic where the stages can be turned left or right in a 90 degree angle to open a new path. Think along the lines of Echochrome on PSP.

The controls are serviceable, but sometimes they don't play nice. You have to be in an exact spot to trigger a context sensitive action like hitting a switch or grabbing a box. In the game's real world, you have a limited time before the boy's body of light dissipates. Wrestling with finicky controls is even more frustrating on the clock. For the most part, however, they work well.

The graphics are a mixed bag. The textures are blurry and they went with an Ico-esque color palette and lighting. It gets the job done, but it's hardly original. Ico, despite being almost 10 years older, managed to look better. The art style in Ico also trumps Lost in Shadow. Despite its fairytale-esque story, the boy is dressed in a hoodie and jorts. What? Why? That seemed completely out of place. Additionally, Lost in Shadow couldn't decide how it wanted to present its story. There are a few CG cutscenes and others are told through text and still frame images. Was an all CG approach to costly?

I know most of this review seems negative, but I did enjoy Lost in Shadow. It's important to note that I probably would have enjoyed it far less had I paid more than $15 for it. Saving 70% on something makes it easier to handle its shortcomings. The game is a hodge podge of ideas from a variety of much better and more original games: Zelda series (shadow/light theme, fairy companion), old school Prince of Persia (platforming and traps), and, obviously, Ico (everything...) to name a few. The game doesn't take a lot of chances and I wish it did. The problem with sticking too close to an inspiration is that they did it first and if you don't do it as well or better, it shows. I feel like a much better game could have been made with the concept presented.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2011, 11:48:19 PM by Adrock »