When I attended Playcrafting’s 2015 Fall Expo, I asked the TechRaptor staff if there were any particular games they’d like me to check out. A few people pointed me out to one or two different games and I had a list of my own that I had wanted to look at. There was, however, one title that multiple TechRaptor staff asked me to take a look at and that game was Shardlight.
Shardlight (developed and published by Wadjet Eye Games) is a point & click adventure set in a post-cataclysmic city. I use the term “post-cataclysmic” at the insistence of the developer (who I interviewed for TechRaptor). We only see the one city and surrounding area and have no idea about the goings-on in the rest of the world.
What we do see of the world in Shardlight is filled with very lovely pixel art and an immersive atmosphere. The preview build I was supplied covered roughly the first third of the game and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
Before I go any further, I feel it’s important to state that this is the first point & click game I’ve ever played for longer than five minutes. There were some times I messed around with stuff like King’s Quest or Newgrounds in my youth, but other than that I went into Shardlight with very little experience. All I knew is that there would likely be puzzles that may require the use of crazy moon logic to get by. I may miss some things that would otherwise be obvious to veteran players of point & click adventures. I may say something that would be obvious to the person who played every single King’s Quest ever released. I’m approaching this game and this entire genre from a fresh, inexperienced perspective.
I can say with some confidence that I found the puzzles in Shardlight to be very sensible. I’m by no means an idiot (no matter what my parents, friends, ex-girlfriends, or several TechRaptor writers might say), but I certainly felt that their difficulty struck the right balance.
I did get stuck on two particular puzzles. The first one was a chalkboard that had an issue with the menu erroneously staying on-screen and obscuring a portion of the chalkboard. The second one involved a combination of items being assembled in a certain way. Combining Item A with Item B and then Item C in my inventory resulted in a non-functional Item D. Placing Item A on the floor and then combining it with Items B and C resulted in a properly functional Item D. Both of these bugs were reported to the developer and ought to be fixed in the release version. Aside from those two minor issues, the puzzles worked well.
Of course, a game of nothing but puzzles might not be terribly interesting. Shardlight has much more than that. The world that Wadjet Eye built has been put together incredibly well in every respect. There was nothing that didn’t make sense to me or seemed out of place. Everything was internally consistent, and the few bits that weren’t could easily be explained by other elements in the world.
And what a world it is. Color is expertly used to clue you in about the world. For example, technology tends to glow blue. This contrasts the green and yellow hues of the world and makes these high-tech devices stand out in a world where most people don’t have access to electricity. I must admit that I might not have noticed this color highlighting were it not for the interview I did with Francisco Gonzalez. However, having foreknowledge of it allowed me to approach it from a different perspective. It allowed me to see that they did indeed apply this philosophy very well.
The color red tends to remain the domain of protagonist Amy Wellard. Amy is a mechanically gifted young woman who is trying to survive in a city devastated by falling bombs. The game opens with her on a “lottery job”. The lottery entry will give her the chance at winning a dose of vaccine against the Green Lung plaque which ravages a city that’s already on the brink.
I particularly enjoyed the cold opening of Shardlight. You find Amy in medias res at the bottom of a ladder in some unknown underground tunnel. The completion of your first challenge and the resolution of that particular situation proverbially ends on a bang with a title card popping onto the screen. It served as a wonderful introduction to Shardlight and had me excited to play the rest.
I’m being quite careful here about specific story details. Wadjet Eye Games has asked that we keep things spoiler-free and only approach the broad strokes for previews. Had they not, I would have likely done so anyway. Between the puzzles and the plot, story is everything in Shardlight (as it is in most point & click games). Puzzles are, in essence, mechanical mysteries, and a mystery sits at the heart of every good story. The more I reveal, the less enjoyable I feel your first experience with the game will be.
Of course, it bears mentioning that a game with a heavy focus on story will diminish replayability. Knowing the solutions to puzzles will rob you of that exquisite joy of everything clicking into place in your mind.
The music and sound of Shardlight served the title well. The characters were all voice-acted, and Shardlight overcomes the cardinal sin of many games that do not allow you to skip critical text. I listened to quite a lot of dialogue, but I also read rather quickly and was quite happy to be able to skip it when I felt like it. The sounds all felt appropriate and worked well for when they were used – nothing seemed out of place or particularly low quality. The music for Shardlight was handled by Nathaniel Chambers and suited the world and theme perfectly.
Graphically, Shardlight uses pixel art that’s crafted with love and care. I can’t speak to the quality of the menus and UI as there were placeholders for the preview build. However, what I saw of the world and its puzzles was nothing short of one of the best representations of work in the pixel medium that I’ve seen. They have faint echos of a character you might see on a mid ’90s PC game but with excellent attention to detail. Every dot, every detail, is right where it’s supposed to be and nothing felt half-assed or low effort.
I spent four hours total playing the preview build of Shardlight to completion. If we extrapolate that time to the rest of the game, I think you’ll get at least 12 hours with the finished product unless you rush through a fair bit of the dialogue. The only complaint I have remaining with Shardlight is that I was abruptly pulled out of a world that I found myself deeply enjoying. I’m quite excited to continue on to the full game and see how the rest of the story plays out.
Shardlight releases on Steam on March 8th, 2016 for $14.99 and will be discounted for 10% off for its first week. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had with the game so far. I’m very much looking forward to playing the remainder.
Shardlight was previewed on a Windows PC on Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
Do you enjoy point & click adventures or are they not really your kind of game? What do you think of the art in Shardlight? Let us know in the comments below!