A Shady Part of Me Review
Whenever I fire up an indie puzzle-platformer with a story that takes place in a dreamscape, the first question I have is always: how much or how little will this be like Playdead’s LIMBO? While Playdead pushed beyond LIMBO with its later, more 3D triumph INSIDE, it’s easy to see how they brought together a tiny genre in so many ways. And games that follow tend to go for the obvious beats laid out in the past.
A Shady Part of Me is in much the same vein as where LIMBO began, but with some obvious twists. It is not a clone by any means, nor is it as dark or violent, but your time with it will feel familiar depending on how many of these games you’ve played before. Your adventure starts off in an obscure walk through what looks like a mental health institution and goes from there. While I won’t spoil what you’ll ultimately come across, there is quite a variety in the environments and the way they leverage unique mechanics to further the puzzles you encounter.
Here you play as a girl and her shadow, often alternating between the shadow’s 2D platforming landscape and the girl’s 3D landscape. Most puzzles involve flipping back and forth between the two characters quickly, manipulating lights or shadows to help the other one progress. You learn pretty quickly that the girl is afraid of the light, while her shadow does not want to succumb to total darkness. This translates to the gameplay element where the girl will die if exposed to bright light, and the shadow often cannot traverse if there’s no shade to be used as ground.
A Game of Lights and Shadows
A Shady Part of Me builds on its puzzle foundation in interesting ways using the interplay between the two characters to great effect. There are some standout moments like a train sequence or a level all about fire. Unfortunately, most puzzles are a bit repetitive and involve pushing a thing here, jumping on something, or activating a switch. I was never stumped for long, if at all, and breezing through an act is a relaxing stroll from left to right. To make it even easier, although I do appreciate it, there is a rewind mechanic seen in other games that lets you quickly rewind time if you make a fatal mistake. It’s a double-edged sword in that the convenience of not having to reload is a nice one, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it removed too much of the tension in the problem-solving. Every time I made a mistake I could back up, immediately illuminating the puzzle’s solution and essentially ending the level.
The main thrust of the game is dealing with fear and unlike LIMBO, our dual protagonists are fully voiced. Hannah Murray (Gilly from Game of Thrones) lends her voice to both the girl and the shadow, and while I found her girl voice mostly grating at times, her take on the more mature shadow is a treat. There’s also another character that pops in from time to time, but I’ll leave that for you to uncover.
The art style is very pretty, with an almost paper-like motif and muted palette. It’s as if you’ve come across a pop-up story in an adjacent Coraline universe. Likewise, the music is pleasant and reactive, changing itself slightly as you change characters or increasing in prominence with what’s happening in the scene.
A Shady Part of Me is short and could be completed in an evening or two, so it’s much easier to digest what’s on offer before the simplicity of it wears you out. Overall, I would love to have seen more complexity in my time with it, or simply deeper twists on an already crowded genre. If not mechanically then emotionally. LIMBO and INSIDE were standouts not only because of the mechanics but the world-building and tension as well. Likewise, Braid was an homage that never squandered on difficulty. I hope that what comes next from this studio is a bit more daring than what came before it, as A Shady Part of Me inspires confidence.
*** A PC code was provided by the publisher ***
- Surreal and elegant art design
- Great voice work
- Soothing soundtrack
- Simple puzzle designs
- Familiar ideas