Lost in Shadow Review

Hudson Entertainment’s moody, minimalist platformer Lost in Shadow suffers from “dragging” not only because of inappropriate length but a repetitive nature, foreseeable outcomes, and a really inventive basis for gameplay that stretches thinner than the shadows it employs. A bevy of challenges mixing precise jumping, simple combat, and interesting puzzles keep the game in focus, but the focus can be overwhelming.

Lost in Shadow‘s real success lies in the game’s premise — players take on the role of a boy’s shadow that has been wrenched from his body and tossed to the bottom of a tall, labyrinthine tower. So instead of all the action taking place in the foreground, as in every other game, the main character and the majority of his obstacles exist in the background shadows. Given this mechanic, camera angles take on fragile significance. Thankfully this is where Hudson gets the best of both worlds by consistently reminding the player of the dimensional relationship but not obscuring the action in the background with foreground clutter.

Platforming and puzzles often center on the shadow mechanic as well, in that foreground objects, including light sources, can be manipulated at key points to transform the environment. For example, a sliding light bulb can bend a pipe’s shadow to allow access to a ledge at one end, and then open up a new passage at the other end when moved in the opposite direction. These environment manipulation challenges drive the game forward and provide the meat of the gameplay experience. Unfortunately, they often require little mental effort to complete, as on-screen indicators generally signal the beginning of such a segment or a flashing light will point toward the object in question.

The result is a lack of immersion, or what some may call a “gamey game.” With its minimalist art style, bare-bones MIDI soundtrack, contrast-driven scenery, and understated storyline, Lost in Shadow begs to be received as an immersive and artistic title. But with constant gameplay tutorials, awkwardly placed cutscenes, and worst of all a level structure that allows for a stage called “Sewers: Basement 4” it’s hard to stay entranced or even engaged in the shadow boy’s journey.

Ultimately, Lost in Shadow feels like a roguelike (or dungeon crawler) which is at odds with its core platforming, puzzling challenges. The majority of the game will see players climbing a tower with 55 floors (not all are traversed individually, but it’s still a ton of floors), all of which follow the same pattern of collecting three “Monitor Eyes” hidden throughout the stage in order to proceed upward. A basic leveling system gives players a sense of empowerment as a variety of spiders, spinning eyes, and spitting plants offer experience points upon defeat, but the system feels hollow and underdeveloped. The only real motivation to continue from floor to floor is the anticipation of the sporadically challenging puzzles, most of which take place in segments outside the realm of the tower in little puzzle-breaks called Shadow Corridors. Apart from these and few other stand-out moments, the game just drags on.

It’s possible that Lost in Shadow has opened up a hybrid genre — the platforming, puzzling, artistic dungeon crawler — but it only does partial justice to each. Not only is this confusing and at times even frustrating (sparingly available save points for example) but the entire affair goes on for about ten hours more than it should. When the best segments of Lost in Shadow could be summed up in a five to ten hour adventure but the game lasts twice that, it overstays its welcome. It can best be described by a passage in Tom Bissell’s book Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter where he discusses videogame length by using the analogy of books:

“If a book drags on, people don’t say, ‘it was kind of boring, but at least it has a lot of pages in it, so it’s great value.’ They say, ‘it dragged on, and I got the message in the first half of the book.’ Time spent reading just isn’t mentioned, and indeed, isn’t the point.”

Lost in Shadow is a triumph in imagination and a disappointing flop in execution. The experience of playing as a shadow that can manipulate elements in both the real and shadow world (and eventually walk about in the 3D world for short periods) feels fresh and genuinely intriguing. Just about everything else falls flat with an inappropriate length or rehashed puzzles. Fans of platformers with a good deal of patience will discover some of the great ideas strewn about Lost in Shadow (most of which occur in the final hours), but most will probably want to quit before they get there.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.