Shadow Puppeteer

(1 customer review)


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Complete Review & Description

Shadows are a strange thing. On a purely scientific level, they’re nothing more than an absence of light. And yet, they’ve captured the minds of storytellers for thousands of years, with their mimicry of our own actions giving them a sense of life, of being an extension of ourselves. So, what happens if you get separated from your shadow?
This is the question that Shadow Puppeteer, the debut game from Norwegian indie outfit Sarepta Studio, asks.

Shadow Puppeteer is “”the story of a boy and his shadow.”” A close encounter with a nefarious fiend sees the child and shadow torn apart, each able to act independently of one another. However, their lives are still as intertwined as when they were connected; if they’re to stop the eponymous villain and save all the other shadows that didn’t manage to escape, they’ll need to work together as one.
As the premise for a co-op focused platformer, Shadow Puppeteer’s story is simple and elegant. It’s about as basic as a game story can get when taken strictly at face value (go stop the Bad Guy™), but that belies a moving and heartwarming tale that emerges through tone, atmosphere, and gameplay.

Shadow Puppeteer is a physics-based puzzle platformer, but with a twist: the physics in question are, primarily, those of light, rather than gravity. While the boy can move in three dimensions and is hampered by obstacles as you’d expect, his shadow operates on a 2D plane, using the shadows cast by objects as platforms.
Moving an object will move its shadow, and vice versa, so the pair (controlled independently either by two separate players, or by a single person a la A Tale of Two Brothers), need to work together to create paths for each other and progress.
The real hook comes with the unique puzzle design afforded by the light-based physics. Not only can you move shadows around, but by playing with light sources, you can actually alter the shadows’ dimensions. For example, you might move a box close to a wall so that its shadow is low enough to the ground for the boy’s shadow to climb onto, and then pull it back towards the light to make the shadow platform bigger, letting the shadow boy reach an otherwise out-of-reach area.

It’s a unique mechanic that not only makes for great puzzles, but merges seamlessly with the narrative and sells it in a way that the exposition-heavy style favoured by big budget games can only dream of. Coupled with some great art direction reminiscent of Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton, Shadow Puppeteer’s gameplay had me caring about its nameless, voiceless characters more than games typically do.
Yet, for all its charm, great level design, and ambition, Shadow Puppeteer is a hard game to recommend because shoddy controls and frustrating, unforgiving checkpoints make it a chore to play. Controls are woefully unresponsive, and the whole game is spent feeling like you’re playing underwater. That in itself is annoying enough, but the level design demands precision that the controls simply don’t offer.
Checkpoints aren’t exactly scarce, but they’re poorly placed – like just before a cutscene, or before an easy part of the level instead of the part that keeps killing you. Due to the pitiful controls, you’ll be dying frequently, and checkpoint placement means you can expect to be repeating the same puzzles that you’ve already solved, over and over again, just to get back to the part you’re struggling with. This all amounts to a game that, to put it bluntly, is an ordeal to play. A game where clearing an obstacle comes with a sense of relief, rather than achievement.

You could say that Shadow Puppeteer is the quintessential indie game – with a compelling gameplay hook and captivating story. It has potential coming out its ears, but the lack of budget means a lack of polish, especially in the control department.
I can only hope that Sarepta continues to work on Shadow Puppeteer post-launch. It’s a tough sell right now, but given the time and resources it deserves, this could be a great game.


1 review for Shadow Puppeteer

  1. Rood


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