PAX Prime 2010: Lost in Shadow
Generally speaking I don’t keep too close a watch on the happenings of the Wii, but Hudson’s Lost in Shadow has been a game floating around my periphery since it was announced. From screenshots and little blurbs found around the ‘net it looked and sounded like little else found on Nintendo’s platform. Much to my surprise and delight, I was invited to check the game out in person at PAX, as well as speak briefly with some of the Hudson folk about the title.
Before playing the game myself the Hudson representative gave me a bit of background on the game’s narrative. At the very beginning of the title the villain cuts a young boys shadow from him. The shadow is then physically lifted from the feet of the boy and tossed over the edge of a nearby cliff. Far below the shadow recovers, looking around it can see the cliff and tower – from which it was tossed aside – rise into the distance. Lost in Shadow is simply the journey of this shadow back to its master, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Taking the controls myself, Lost in Shadow is essentially a side-scrolling platformer with a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the manner the game is presented in, as the foreground is populated with platforms and obstacles but the gameplay itself takes place behind those, with the shadows themselves, which is what your shadow actually traverses. The Hudson rep specifically told me to ignore the foreground, but it took a little while to focus solely on the background alone.
During my demo I got to play through the first three levels of Lost in Shadow. In addition to the standard running and jumping found in the genre, the shadow is accompanied by the shadow of a butterfly that doubles as your guide and companion. At any point the butterfly can be used to scan the screen for environmental objects that can be manipulated. As standard as this might sound there was something beautiful and invigorating seeing the shadows altered by manipulated foreground elements. At first it’s hard to see how playing with these objects will help you at all, but as the shadows begun to change the solutions seemed to reveal themselves naturally.
Solving the environmental puzzles was required in many cases to simply move from point A to B, but it became increasingly necessary to seek out the three objects – I’ll call them ‘mirrors’ – one needs to find in each level to move on. By the third stage there were multiple branches to explore and puzzles in one area would need to be solved to allow passage in the alternate routes.
During my demo with Lost in Shadow I was really struck by how simple the game’s core design was. Although I was solving fairly basic environmental puzzles I never felt like I was doing something I had done a thousand times over in previous games; having it all relayed to me through this new shadow lens gave it all a new feeling. What’s more the aesthetic is quite reminiscent of ICO, as the world is really simple, surreal and feels washed out. I feel as the game progresses that comparison will hold true as the impression I got was the game will be as much about mood and exploration as it will puzzle solving.
Lost in Shadow is shaping up to be a wonderful little Wii exclusive. Although I didn’t see any, I was told later on there are small bits of combat and it sounded like the Wii remote might be put to use as a light source for puzzles, so there’s still a lot more to be discovered with the title. Don’t let another low profile, high quality third party Wii title go unnoticed. Lost in Shadow will be out early next year.