I often feel like a 2D character would be horrified by a 3D game environment. Imagine contemplating an entire extra dimension, seeing movement in a way that makes no physical sense to you. Similarly, 3D characters must struggle with 2D worlds; imagine trying to live in a world in which movement along an entire axis is totally impossible. It's these fundamental metaphysical differences that the two protagonists of new puzzle-platformer Shady Part of Me must overcome. In the 3D segment, a little girl pads through a surreal dreamscape; the 2D segment follows her shadow.
That's both the narrative setup and the central gameplay conceit of Shady Part of Me. The two gameplay styles intertwine and link with one another, so you'll often need to solve puzzles in one world in order to make progress in the other. All of this is wrapped up in the kind of "indie darling" presentation beloved by many developers, with winsome piano music and half-finished sentence fragments floating across the screen as you play. Will Shady Part of Me deliver on the compelling promise of its premise, or will its gameplay prove one-dimensional?
Shady Part Of Me Looks Great, But Makes No Sense
Aesthetically, Shady Part of Me (incidentally, it's not a great title) is beautiful. Its sepia-tinged black-and-white presentation is fluid and artistic. Developer Douze Dixièmes has opted for a sketchbook-style aesthetic which works great; the 3D environments are full of pencil-sketch tones, while the 2D-platforming segments more resemble a child's coloring book, complete with broad crayon strokes. The contrast between the two is gorgeous, and I found myself stopping to look at new levels as they presented themselves simply so I could drink in the art style.
Aesthetically, Shady Part of Me... is beautiful.
Unfortunately, the flipside to that coin is Shady Part of Me's story, which is less than satisfactory and at times outright pretentious. Douze Dixièmes is another developer to fall prey to the curse of ambiguity. As you play, sentences and words featuring generic emotional concepts and clichés ("am I good enough?," "I'll draw between the lines," et cetera) display themselves diegetically as part of the scenery. These lines feel like they could have been lifted from any faux-meaningful join-the-dots story. There's something to be said for a strong narrative hook, and Shady Part of Me lunges straight for the indie metaphors without establishing any real context, which hurts the narrative.
Gameplay In Shady Part Of Me Is A Joy
Thankfully, the gameplay is there to pick up the slack for the story. Shady Part of Me is a two-part experience: it's a 3D puzzler and a 2D platformer. Moving objects in the 3D world often has an effect on the 2D world. You may, for example, need to push a box in order to make its shadow smaller so your 2D friend can climb onto it. Alternately, pulling a lever in the shadow world might cause a light to move, allowing the little 3D girl (who hates light) to move forward. This interplay between the two gameplay styles is Shady Part of Me's greatest strength; the puzzling remains clever and intuitive throughout.
Shady Part of Me's strong core gameplay loop keeps it feeling fresh.
Despite being a relatively short experience, Shady Part of Me manages to wring pretty much everything it can out of its core gameplay loop. At times, it's a remarkably imaginative experience; one particularly memorable sequence involves a train winding its way through the 3D section while the 2D girl leaps and bounds across its carriages in her world. Even during its more uninspired segments—following a shadow as it tracks across a well-lit corridor, for example, or some of the more rudimentary 2D platforming—Shady Part of Me's strong core gameplay loop keeps it feeling fresh.
Replayability in Shady Part of Me
Shady Part of Me's brevity works in its favor when it comes to wringing ideas out of its core gameplay, but in replayability terms, you might not find much here. There are optional origami bird collectibles to discover, each of which, in theory, reveals a new part of the story. Unfortunately, since the story is so piecemeal and obscure in the first place, this isn't a particularly rewarding prospect. Of course, going out of your way to collect these extras is enjoyable in and of itself; some of them are very well hidden, and others require a pleasing mixture of skill and observation to spot and retrieve.
For better or worse, Shady Part of Me feels like a one-and-done experience. It's not something you'll categorically revisit unless you've got a particular fondness for its narrative and aesthetic stylings. There aren't any branching paths through levels, extra difficulty modes, or other goodies to discover here. That said, while it lasts, Shady Part of Me is an absorbing experience with a strong core mechanic. That alone may well make you want to replay it, simply to drink in its ambience and revisit some of its cleverer puzzles again.
Shady Part of Me | Final Thoughts
All in all, Shady Part of Me is a rather enjoyable little puzzle platformer. If you don't have much tolerance for flighty ambiguity, the narrative will infuriate you; it's more content to suggest and whisper than to definitively state. However, its core mechanics are delightful, and many of its puzzles will put a smile on your face simply through the way they incorporate light and shade into their solutions. It's not here for a long time, just a good time, and if you're looking for a game full of mechanics to master, you won't find it here. What you will find is a perfectly pleasant way to pass a few hours, even if you will be scratching your head by its conclusion.
TechRaptor reviewed Shady Part of Me on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher. It's also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
- 2D-3D Gameplay Loop Works Great
- Many Truly Inspired Puzzles
- Beautiful Artistic Aesthetic
- Pretentious Narrative
- Over Too Quickly
- Not Much Replayability