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Critical Reception: Hudson's  Lost in Shadow

Critical Reception: Hudson's Lost in Shadow

January 5, 2011 | By Danny Cowan

January 5, 2011 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Hudson's Wii platformer Lost in Shadow, which reviews describe as "a fun game that sometimes frustrates." Lost in Shadow currently earns a score of 69 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Game Informer's Jeff Marchiafava rates Lost in Shadow at 7.5 out of 10. "Thanks to Nintendo's stable of time-tested mascots, there is no shortage of excellent platformers on the Wii," he notes. "With Lost in Shadow, Hudson Entertainment aims to deliver a more mature adventure to gamers, trading in kid-friendly humor for an introspective storyline and action-heavy platforming for challenging puzzles."

"You play as the shadow of a boy that has been separated from his body and cast off of a giant tower," Marchiafava explains. "In order to reunite with your body, you must make your way back up the structure one level at a time, solving puzzles and collecting gems to unlock each new floor."

Control issues are present throughout, however. "Your character controls similarly to the prince from the old 2D Prince of Persia titles, with a hefty delay every time you change directions, jump, or climb ladders," Marchiafava warns. "The combat is more affected by these poor controls than the platforming is, as you move too slowly to effectively dodge the attacks of your enemies. This becomes less of a problem as your health bar increases, but only in the sense that it allows you to absorb more cheap shots."

"Luckily, Lost in Shadow's puzzles largely overcome these considerable flaws," he continues. "A new mechanic is introduced halfway through the game that introduces some light three-dimensional gameplay and creates more compelling puzzles. As I closed in on the final floors of the tower, I had a hard time putting down the controller."

"Ultimately I can't recommend Lost in Shadow to everyone," Marchiafava summarizes. "The puzzles and combat are too difficult for children (even on easy mode), and platforming fans will be put off by the unresponsive controls. Lost in Shadow can't compete with Nintendo's first-party offerings, but if you can accept its flaws, the mind-bending puzzles will keep you entertained to the end."

Matthew Keast at Games Radar scores Lost in Shadow at at 7 out of 10. "The developers of Lost in Shadow try to squeeze every drop they can from the game's core mechanic, and they do an admirable job of it," he praises. "The shadow's quest is to climb the tower and regain his body. This leads to a whole lot of classic 2D platforming, but requires 3D thinking due to the nature of shadows."

"The first interesting aspect of the game is that you have to learn how to look at a familiar 3D game world in a whole new way," Keast notes. "Your character only interacts with objects' shadows, but those objects are visible in the foreground and background, and all the nuances of how shadows stretch across the landscape come into effect."

The mechanic often tests the player's patience, according to Keast. "This leads to a good amount of trial and error in Lost in Shadow, so player tolerances for that sort of thing should be taken into consideration," he warns. "Much of it is fun because it's endlessly interesting to see an object, wonder what shapes its shadow will take, and then view the surprising result.

"Sometimes it's irritating because it's hard to tell if something will kill you when you manipulate it in a certain way, but luckily these 'deaths' really just instantly respawn you in the same spot with moderate damage, so the trial and error rarely gets truly frustrating."

"Lost in Shadow comes together to form a unique package and is often inspired in its complex play of light and shadow," Keast writes. "It's a fun game that sometimes frustrates, but also really works your brain's capacity for spatial awareness. It has moments of brilliance and excitement, but most of the time simmers at 'fun' and doesn't boil over into 'superb.' If the premise has had you intrigued since it was introduced, we doubt you'll be disappointed in the result."

Dan Whitehead at Eurogamer gives Lost in Shadow a 5 out of 10. "In a gaming landscape often mired in the noisy brown mindset of the angry adolescent shooter, it's not that difficult to stand out," he begins. "You either go bright and colourful, or you go quiet and arty. Either approach will get eyes pointed in your direction, but it helps if you have a game worthy of the attention in the first place."

"That's where [Lost in Shadow] stumbles," Whitehead continues. "The foundations of an innovative platformer are laid, but the game never builds on its potential."

Whitehead admits that the premise is praiseworthy. "Despite the distractingly obvious inspirations, the shadow play is an undeniably clever idea, and one that makes the early stages an enjoyable head trip," he says. "We're so used to watching the foreground that it takes some time to train your eyes to look deeper into the image to see both your character and the environment he can traverse. There are plenty of 'Oooh' moments as you realise you can jog across scenery that would normally be impassable."

However: "Once you've got used to looking 'through' the game to the shadow layer, it quickly becomes apparent that beneath the concept is a fairly ordinary platform game. Ultimately, regardless of which puzzle type is thrown at you, you're just throwing switches to move platforms, which is hardly ground-breaking stuff. With only two axes to move the light along, and dead ends where Spangle use is clearly required, solutions are hardly taxing either."

"Unlike Braid, which took a simple idea and then extrapolated it into an escalating crescendo of brain-melting puzzles, [Lost in Shadow] never truly grapples with the possibilities of playing with light and shadow, instead using them to obscure tired old cliches," he continues.

"The game is weak in other areas as well. Combat is simplistic and sticky, relying on a rudimentary three-hit combo once you've found a sword. Enemies are faster than you, have longer reach and do a lot of damage, so each clumsy encounter with a shadowy spider or lizard is more likely to end in frustration than excitement."

"There's nothing sadder than a great idea wasted, but it's no longer enough to simply come up with a concept and let it do the heavy lifting for the entire length of a game," Whitehead concludes. "The best ideas need to grow, expand and evolve as the levels pass by, but [Lost in Shadow] never takes that next step and unfortunately proves to be as insubstantial as its hero."


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