Where Shadows Slumber is a game that I've been following for some time. I first saw a tiny poster with intriguing art at a Playcrafting event and got to talking with one of its developers. Since then, I've anxiously followed the game's progress and was finally able to get my hands on the final release. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.
The game operates on a simple premise: shadows passing over objects will change them. Walk around a pillar, and the shadow cast by your lantern will reveal a bridge over the ravine. Activate a torch and you'll see the past or future. These concepts extend not only to the gameplay but to the story, sometimes in a tragic fashion.
Early levels go easily enough. At first, gameplay comes down to simply moving around pillars or barriers to manipulate shadows in an ideal way. Shortly thereafter, moveable objects are introduced to add a more dynamic element. Later additions include nonhostile NPCs and moving lights that require you to time your movements - sometimes without being able to see a thing.
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Memory definitely plays a factor in Where Shadows Slumber. (That is to say, your own memory and not the RAM of your smartphone.) One particular level late in the game has a single NPC moving about on a maze of walkways. I had four objects that I could manipulate to block the walkways, but they were only able to move when I was standing on a certain button. I could only see the NPC by casting a shadow from a nearby cliff. The task centers on moving back and forth and guiding the NPC on the correct path so that he would trigger four buttons to unlock a door.
I am generally not fond of "puzzle logic" or its bastard cousin "adventure game logic". Anything where you need to trigger an extremely specific and esoteric set of actions to progress through a level. Thankfully, Where Shadows Slumber avoids this entirely. One or two puzzles stumped me briefly, but something eventually clicked and I was able to solve it.
It's rare (if not impossible) to find yourself in an unrecoverable situation (and you can always hit the reset button if you do). The most complex puzzles in the game will take, at most, a dozen or so distinct actions to complete. Even then, it doesn't feel like a lot of wasted work if you mess up badly. I spent around five or six minutes on average for each level.
Most levels take place on a single screen. A handful of levels have you moving thorough offscreen passageways or a new screen entirely. One of the levels in the City world is a staggering vertical ascent that requires you to move up and down a cliffside. This concept is best executed with the game's penultimate level: it has you bouncing between four different rooms in an effort to solve a complex puzzle with rotating platforms and moving tracks.
The gameplay is certainly enjoyable, but the story of Where Shadows Slumber is something else. After completing the game, I replayed all of the cutscenes in a futile effort to understand it. As best as I can tell, quite a few characters really want your lantern and will go to great lengths to get it from you. That is totally understandable considering that it may have the power to reshape the world.
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What is somewhat less understandable is your own character's motivations. The game begins as he finds a lantern in a forest. Some beast men capture him (perhaps there's a furry convention in town) and then he goes on the run. Once you're free of their pursuit, new challengers enter the fray. While you can believe your character's actions against these initial pursuers, several later choices just don't make much sense to me. I'll concede that I may have missed something. What is assured is that the story is definitely up for interpretation and I'm sure your guess is as good as mine.
The graphics of Where Shadows Slumber are lovely. The art style is what initially caught my attention and got me talking to the developer years ago. It's still as striking as the first day I saw it and the level of detail has improved since the days of its demo. Each of the game's seven worlds has their own distinct art style and color palette. Even the level select menu is gorgeous!
As for the sound, the effects work as well as one would hope. Nothing really seems out of place. The voices used in cutscenes can range from dramatic to unintentionally hilarious; whether or not this is a misstep is irrelevant. It became part of the game's charm. The masterful use of music and voice acting made some of the more brutal cutscenes all the more harrowing.
I did encounter a handful of issues with Where Shadows Slumber. A pixelated screen can hang around for a brief moment at the conclusion of a cutscene. Occasionally, a level loaded to a black screen, necessitating a restart of the app. The game's final cutscene would not play with any sound after beating the last level but it would work just fine from the level select menu. The developer told me that these issues are likely to be fixed (if they aren't already by the time of publication). As far as problems go, though, these are relatively minor and I had no major issues save for a single crash towards the end of the game. Not bad for an indie studio's first game.
Perhaps the only major downside of Where Shadows Slumber is that it lacks in replayability. There's not much reason to go through a second time once you experience the story. A value-add like a speedrun mode or more challenging levels would have been nice, but I'm certainly content with this title as a one-off experience.
Despite this shortcoming, I was never bored and often found myself surprised with the puzzles and twists & turns of the story in Where Shadows Slumber. I spent a little under 5 hours playing Game Revenant's inaugural indie title from start to finish and I loved every minute of it. If you own a phone and have even a passing affection for puzzle games, you should definitely pick it up - no doubt about it.
TechRaptor covered Where Shadows Slumber on Android via Google Play with a code provided by the developer.
What do you think of Where Shadows Slumber? Do you enjoy puzzle games where you can change the shape of the world? Let us know in the comments below!
Where Shadows Slumber combines intriguing puzzle gameplay with a compelling (albeit strange) story backed by beautifully clean art.(Review Policy)
- Clever Puzzles Using Shadow Mechanic
- Beautiful Level Design
- Intriguing Story & Setting
- Minor Bugs Occasionally Required Restarts
- Little To No Replayability