In My Shadow is a platforming puzzling indie game that was released a year ago. It is just the third game that Playbae games has published, and the only one available on PC and consoles. Furthermore, it is their most successful game, as it has won more than 4 international awards.
Playbae games created the game around its central values of innovation, perspective, and uniqueness, and the company has implemented them to perfection. As such, In My Shadow has great, fun, innovative gameplay, but that’s about it. Other aspects of the game round down the quality of it, as players nowadays ask for more than just entertainment.
In My Shadow is available in the Play Station 4, XBOX ONE/SERIES, Steam, and Nintendo Switch e-shops for USD $12 and in the Apple store for USD $4.99.
Story: a good premise left incomplete
In My Shadow’s story follows Bella, the protagonist, as she tries to reconcile with her past. As the player
progresses through the game, they start discovering what happened between her and the different
members of her family. Thus, through the levels, Bella remembers what took place inside her childhood home and she wonders what could have gone wrong. This all sounds very promising, but the in-game story is not really that engaging.
In the game, we learn about Bella’s story through very brief cutscenes that appear every few levels. In
them, we can hear (or more like read) Bella’s thoughts and we can see some characters moving in stop-motion. However, these cutscenes have three main problems:
- The scenes barely provide any information: most cutscenes are barely over a few seconds long and they heavily rely on the text displayed. Moreover, the grand majority of scenes give away the same message; that Bella is sorry for what happened but it is what it is.
- The translation is not reliable (at least in Spanish): as I am a native Spanish speaker, I started playing the game in my language. Nonetheless, I quickly realized I needed to change the language to English. The Spanish translation rendered cutscenes meaningless and confusing when they should be clarifying and informative.
- Cutscenes don’t really show a proper evolution in Bella: we can see the slightest of evolutions when playing the game, but most scenes are not relevant to it. Although the last levels of the game (and some cutscenes) are more relevant to showing us this evolution.
Gameplay: solve the shadow puzzle, then platform the heck out of it
You must be thinking, a game named In My Shadow must be based on shadows, right? Well, of course, but the interesting bit is how shadows are used in the game. Most of the time, stealth games are the ones that monopolize the use of shadows and light; sometimes others introduce them in puzzle-solving levels as solutions, but no one has used shadows to this scale.
The game has a very straightforward goal: reach the shadow standing on the other side of the level. Yet, the player can soon realize that it is not that simple. Firstly, you need to also collect the various pieces of “paper” that float on each level before reaching the other shadow. This is no easy task, as some of the levels have up to 4 or 5 spread pieces, and they can be anywhere. Most of the time, collecting these floating pieces is the most complicated part of a level. This is due to the games’ own gameplay, which is divided into two different sections.
Two sides of the same coin
The first part of the game is preparation. In this stage, the player must rearrange the furniture that lies on the level in order to reshape their shadow. This is because Bella moves through them, and thus needs places in which to step, jump and land. Fundamentally, the player needs to analyze the level and create a path in which they avoid traps and collect papers. This is enhanced when the player learns that some shadows can block others; as such, items moved by the player can block traps, papers, or other convenient objects. Moreover, some items break after contact, some don’t emit shadows, some can turn and some are a fun mix. This part of the game transforms the levels into puzzles, forcing the players to think, try and fail again and again.
On the other hand, the game has the platforming part. Played after the preparation part when Bella can use the shadows as platforms to reach the goal. Essentially, this sector of the game is more technical and methodical rather than creative. Nonetheless, it can also be challenging, as the player has to do some precise jumps on different levels. This is mostly due to Bella’s hitbox, which is pretty big when compared to her silhouette. This is why, when the player moves or jumps, they have to be very careful to avoid the different dangers.
Playbae games has been able to integrate both parts perfectly, creating an engaging try-and-fail environment. As a player, you want to place the shadows correctly and then platform your way to the next level. Then, if you fail, you want to try again, moving shadows around and surpassing your limits to complete levels.
Graphics and audio: what could have been
Don’t get me wrong, graphics and audio make a decent combination in the game, but its flaws overshadow the gameplay. It makes you wonder “what could have been”. Graphics are good when actually playing the game (yes, when platforming and puzzle solving), but they turn a bit weird in cutscenes. Characters are built in a strange, particle-flashy manner to show that they are part of a memory. Yet, when they are mixed with ominous text and sounds, you get a really strange set of scenes.
The audio, on the other hand, is pretty good most of the time. In the levels, the player can hear a distinct soundtrack in each different room that envelops the levels. Said songs fit exactly In My Shadow’s gameplay, they are mostly relaxing, melodic, and emotional. The issue, again, is with cutscenes. In them, the music doesn’t change, so it does not really fit the scenes. The tracks really fit the gameplay, but don’t fit the silent cutscenes, which would benefit from Bella’s voice explaining the situation.
When porting isn’t the better option
It is important to note that, while playing the game on PS4, I have seen some gameplay on PC, and they look much different. The characters on PC looked way smoother and better optimized in the cutscenes, which clarified their intentions and expressions. Yet, most importantly, on PC the player can see the levels completely, while some shadows on PS4 are not properly displayed. This can infuriate the players, which may think they died for nothing while, in reality, they will have thrown themselves in death’s arms (not that I’m talking from personal experience). Here you can see the difference between PC gameplay and PS4 gameplay.
These kinds of bugs and issues occur throughout the whole game and can lead to a feeling of tiredness and helplessness for the players; which may even go on to stop playing the game altogether as they can’t solve the puzzles. As such, we can only really hope that Playbae games can improve the PS4 version as the developer of the game.
In My Shadow was reviewed on PlayStation with a review code provided by OverGamez.
interesting, i guess i’ll play it on pc. great review!
will definitely be playing this
will be definitely playing