In My Shadow game is from Playbae and Alcon Interactive Group, out today on Steam. I hastily produced the In My Shadow review for YouTube first and subsequently finetuning (pah!) the ‘script’ for this review.
You play Bella, the protagonist in the game, who appears to have an estranged relationship with her family. When we meet her, she’s slumped over a desk at her laptop – all very relatable, but looking at how meticulously tidy the desk is, I assume she’s up to something and can’t be trusted.
She receives a text from her old man that is the catalyst to some flashbacks, and that’s when we’re introduced to Bella’s shadow from when she was a child. In My Shadow is a 3D title, occupying 3D spaces, but as soon as the action begins, you’re a 2D projection on the wall. Think Super Mario Odyssey 2D sections without the tash or smelling of meatballs.
Should you choose to accept it, the mission is to get Bella’s shadow to safety, collecting memories along the way. There aren’t any timers, health gauges or goblins chasing you down with a Nerf gun, so it’s a somewhat therapeutic puzzle game where taking your time and experimenting is encouraged.
I’d put my money on the second one as I still can’t spel mai nayme. This quick playthrough was probably for a few reasons: getting the review done in time to make a video, finding out what the eff Bella has done (has she buried the family under the patio? Did she leave the toilet seat up?) or maybe it was because I liked it.
Well, it was all three. Ignoring the obvious first one, with a beautiful score, I was all set for a story to make me weep like a cavalier visit to the Red Light District. After the superb Before Your Eyes experience, I was eager for another powerful narrative. Only, it didn’t quite get there.
No spoilers here, but In My Shadow’s story is split into four areas of Bella’s family home, depicting a connection with each family member – including the family dog. Inbetween stages are illustrated cutscenes hinting at her relationship with her family, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s difficult not to discuss what happens, but let’s say it left many unanswered questions. In my opinion, her recollections are all somewhat normal, like most families.
It’s a shame as the character designs are nice, and the music triggers you for an emotional ride, but it didn’t click with me on that level. Fortunately, though, the puzzles, as in the gameplay, were very good, and I enjoyed that aspect quite a bit.
Before Bella’s shadow can get to her goal, you have to clear the way for her. There are two modes for In My Shadow game: the platforming element and the placement of objects. Plating with the mouse and keyboard, I’d use the keyboard to move Bella Bella about, then switch to the manipulation bit by pressing E.
With the mouse, I was able to drag objects around X, Y and Z axis while watching the shadows form on the walls. There are two surfaces to experiment with, and you have to position the objects, such as boxes, tables and chairs, to cast the shadows that Bella can climb over. It’s all very intuitive.
Additionally, some items might only move in one direction, others not at all, or rotated on their axis to create new jump spots. There are even portals introduced late in the game to teleport to different areas of the room, but it’s nothing so elaborate that it distracts from the experience.
Platforming for In My Shadow is simple. There aren’t any dashes or double jumping, nor is she packing any heat. She doesn’t need it as there aren’t any enemies in the game. Maybe herself and self-sabotaging? Ooooh… deep. Most of the puzzles can be completed relatively swiftly and, for this reason, feels immediately gratifying.
As you can’t die (Bella will respawn), it’s best to go for a bit of trial and error as there isn’t always one solution. I would find I’d start a run straight away, then fine tweak each object, sometimes starting all over. Some levels would take less than a minute with a first attempt, others more. There was a level in the third room that had me stumped for a good 25 minutes, though. It wasn’t the last level or even close, but I struggled with it to the point that a notification said I could skip it.
Slightly persuaded, I got on with it and finished it. There was the odd thing that didn’t work well. When placing items directly next to each other, the shadows would create a perfect line, but Bella wouldn’t step over it and stop. Even if it were a millimetre out, it wouldn’t work. Also, the jumping for In My Shadow can be a pig as you can’t adjust the power. Jumping between a section with spikes at the top and bottom was more or less impossible without any variation. Still, this is a design choice, and the way around it is by finding another path. Having completed the game, it can be done, and I’d be surprised if many rage at the difficulty as it’s well balanced.
The biggest thing for me was the story and subsequent conclusion. On my part, it missed the boat and could potentially have been a belter. That’s nothing to do with comparing to other games, In My Shadow could easily have gone in a variety of narrative paths that would have worked to its advantage.
But is it any good? Yep, I think so. I love the way the game makes you think by dragging simple shapes to create a new perspective. The pacing was good, and the problem-solving felt like an organic experience. It took me about three or four hours to finish. It’s not a competition on completing it the fastest, but to give you a ballpark on longevity.