The young protagonist of Shady Part of Me finds herself on a peculiar adventure, with her only real companion being her own shadow. It’s a good job that it seems to have a mind of its own then, really…
Waking in an unfamiliar and frightening place, she looks to make her way to safety, all whilst her shadow helps her out along the way. There’s a bit of a catch, though: her shadow needs light sources to simply exist and the poor little girl just so happens to suffer from heliophobia… you know… the fear of bright lights.
This leads you on a 3D puzzle-platforming adventure where you have to avoid light at all costs, whether it’s flickering lamps, the sun shining in through windows, or the array of shimmering spotlights that seem to follow you wherever you go. This means you’ll need to time your movements carefully when traversing each eerie area, take cover from the light, and be patient as you carefully await the right moment to move across each room. Find yourself caught in the light? The little girl will simply curl up into a little ball of fear, forcing you to rewind time quickly in order to return to a moment of safety.
The general platforming mechanics for the girl are straightforward in their self, with plenty of objects to move, interact with, or simply hide behind on her journey that’ll help her avoid the light. However, it doesn’t take long before her progress is blocked off, meaning she’ll need a bit of a helping hand to overcome the obstacles in her path.
This is where her shadow comes into play. With a quick button press, players can flick control over to the girl’s shadow, whose action takes place on a 2D plane in the background. It’s a clever idea that utilises the environment and object details from the girl’s 3D world to form platforms, with the position of the light sources that you’d have previously been avoiding essentially creating the pathways you need to follow. Your shadow is a bit nimbler too, with plenty of moments of precise platforming required as you leap between hazards and activate levers to help open new pathways for the girl.
It makes for a creative and satisfying puzzle-solving experience, with plenty of new ideas introduced throughout the game’s fifteen chapters to keep players on their toes. It never feels like you’re just moving light sources or objects around to progress either, with some clever forward-thinking and quick reactions required for both the girl and her shadow if you hope to get past some of the trickier conundrums. And believe me, Shady Part of Me’s later enigmas will bring with them some real head-scratching moments for players, with the clever scope of their design and presentation making for some of the finest moments of the whole experience.
They’re tough, but never frustrating and always force players to think in new and creative ways – it’s EXACTLY what you’d hope for from a puzzle-platformer like this.
The only real disappointment with Shady Part of Me is how its narrative feels like a bit of mish-mash, with no real plot points elaborated on until you reach the game’s conclusion. Whilst it’s easy to interpret your own ideas along the way, it does make it feel a bit more difficult to really invest yourself in the girl’s struggles. It’s a shame too because Hannah Murray (of Skins and Game of Thrones fame) does a really good job of narrating the journey.
It isn’t too long either with a roughly three-hour runtime, though finding each of the hidden origami birds that are scattered across the world may keep you playing a little bit longer. Admittedly, most of them are easy enough to find and I think I only missed out on a handful during my playthrough, but they do at least add a few narrative details to flesh out the adventure so it’s worth grabbing as many as you can along the way.
Shady Part of Me’s enjoyable blend of 3D and 2D puzzle-platforming offers an array of clever and creative conundrums for players to unravel – it’s just a bit of a shame that the narrative behind it offers little to really invest you in the journey.
The puzzles more than makes up for it though, whilst the solemn and atmospheric world design manages to look impressive throughout. It might not always hit the brilliant highs of similar titles such as Limbo or Inside, but Shady Part of Me should still be on the radar of puzzle-platforming fans.
Developer: Douze Dixiemes
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC