Tue 28 Sep 2010
It becomes clear just how anachronistic the Wii's online service remains when you're sent a game's demo... in the mail. On a disc. Apparently that still happens. I was pleasantly surprised to find a demo for Hudson's Lost in Shadow on my doorstep a few days ago—codes and digital downloads are more common—and dug right in.
In the game you are a shadow, split from your physical body, and you must adventure up the many levels of a grand tower in order to reunite with your corporeal form. This is a platformer with some elements of a puzzler; you interact with the "real" objects' shadows in order to find a number of items in each level, unlocking the shadowy barrier that keeps you from moving forward.
It's tricky to get used to looking past the objects in the foreground to the shadows behind them, but this leads to some interesting mechanics. Using the remote as a pointer, you can grab certain parts of the architecture, moving it this way and that to clear the way forward, and you'll be able to adjust the placement of certain light sources to change the shape of the shadows. You gain "weight" by reading hints in the levels, and this acts as your health, although there is no real penalty for dying. The challenge comes from maneuvering your way through the environment, not from the threat of enemies or death.
The problem is that even in the demo I felt like there were only a few ways to solve each puzzle. Move the cursor around the screen to see if there is anything you can move? Adjust a light source to change the shape of the shadows? Find the mechanism that allows you to spin the entire level? It began to feel rather procedural, and after playing Echochrome II with the PlayStation Move I feel like that game nailed the shadow mechanic much better.
The game's aesthetics seem inspired by Ico, and that's a good thing. After playing the demo, I'm left with mixed feelings, but the full game may improve as the puzzles progress. Lost in Shadow is coming to the Nintendo Wii on January 4, 2011.