Lost In Shadow Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Jan 06, 2011

Taking a major cue from the atmosphere and themes of ICO and adding some of the darkly devious 2D side-scrolling nature of Limbo, Lost in Shadow is a visually distinctive Wii side scroller. If the game could have actually lived up to its desired pedigree, it would have been stunning. But as is, this isn't a bad little adventure game.

The Pros
  • Some great visual effects
  • Mostly solid platforming gameplay
  • Dark atmosphere and nice ambience
The Cons
  • Doesn't do nearly enough with its concepts
  • Gameplay is very standard
  • Grimy haze gets distracting

Lost in Shadow Review:

Imitation might not be the highest form of flattery in the gaming industry, so much as it is the safest way to make money. However, sometimes imitation can bring about some rather cool stuff. Case in point is Hudson Soft’s Lost in Shadow. It’s an otherwise straightforward side scroller brought up a few stylistic notches thanks to a dogged affection (or obsession) for games like ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, with similarities to more recent games like Limbo.

A Harsh Parting

In Lost in Shadow, you’ll take the role of a young boy’s shadow, which was rudely dismembered from the captured boy in the opening cinematic. It’s a harsh start to a game that largely stays unapologetically harsh to young boys the whole way through. The object is simple. The shadow has plummeted to the bottom of a monolithic stone tower, and must make its way back up, presumably to rejoin its body.

Getting to the top requires all the things that gamers have seen plenty of times before—running, jumping, climbing, hitting switches, solving puzzles, and batting bad things with swords. As such, it’s not a bad example of these tried and true methods of problem solving. But Lost in Shadow is all about the atmosphere and visual panache of being a shadow.

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2D-Centric 3D

Level design looks entirely typical. There are ladders, long pathways, absurdly floating platforms, trap doors, switches, and other usual bits of architecture. The shadow gimmick, however, means that you’ll never set foot on the actual real world objects. Instead, you travel on the shadows of the landscape, which provides ample opportunity for some impressive effects.

There are a lot of superb visuals in the game. Effects where the shadows fall deeply into the background of the scene, causing your shadow to run through a field of varying depth, just look cool. As the light changes, so too does the perspective. A standard path in the real world can easily become a long, distorted shadow against the floor.

Certain puzzles require you to manipulate light sources so that the shadows of platforms move closer or farther apart. This can reveal new openings, block off dangers, or just make a jump possible. The whole game has a grainy, dirty haze to it that is possibly a throwback to the haze in Sony’s ICO, but just makes the game look unnecessarily grungy.

The camera is clearly more interested in effect than utility as well, and foreground obstacles frequently obscure the action in the background. The audio is remarkably spare as well. Most of the soundtrack is ambient effects, which adds nicely to the somewhat disturbing atmosphere.

Fighting Shadows

Throughout the journey, your shadow will encounter shadow monsters. Spiders, plants, reptilian things, and some really bizarre creatures will frequently block the way. With the trusty shadow of a rusty sword in hand, hacking monsters is easy enough once you get the rhythm down. Unfortunately, there’s painfully little variety to the standard combat. You hack a couple times, jump to avoid attack, and do it again.

Some monsters can only be killed by tower defenses (usually arrow shooters), or must be avoided entirely. Chase sequences against the nightmarish giant shadow that has taken over the tower provide a nice change up from the standard combat as well.

Each level has several other elements to find before progressing. Memories are collected to increase your shadow’s weight, which is basically its health. There are three special icons on each level that must be found before the exit will open, and then there are the shadow doors, which lead to alternate world levels.

These shadow realm levels are an interesting idea in theory, but lackluster in execution. Many of them require you to rotate the landscape to adjust the perspective, just like Sony’s Echochrome, in order to reach the exit. Since reaching the exit is really the only goal in these otherwise empty and short levels, this part of the game feels more like filler than anything meaningful.

Worth Finding?

Lost in Shadow is an interesting game that steals from a lot of great sources, but just doesn’t do nearly enough with its intellectual loot. The dark atmosphere, wonderful shadow effects, and appealing concepts still have to bear the weight of the otherwise entirely standard game design. That said, the game is an entertaining side scroller; it just ends up feeling--rather ironically--a little flat overall.