Hudson's possibly no-longer-Wii-exclusive action-platformer Lost in Shadowhas always struck us as a lovely game -- its use of light and shadow evoking the great ICO-- but until last night there was the chance it could very well hold as little substance as its silhouette hero. Good news: What started out reminding me of the original, side-scrolling Prince of Persia quickly had me grinning, as its lighting went from "a nice effect" to a creating some clever gameplay mechanics.
The premise of the game is simple: You play as the shadow of a boy that's been severed from his body. Beginning at the ground floor of a massive tower, you guide his shadow form back to the top, where the two will (hopefully) be reunited. The core gameplay is simple. The shadow boy has a sword and can run, jump, climb obstacles and duel with enemies -- again, shades of classic Prince of Persia. The twist often literally came in the form of moving physical foreground elements in the level I played in order to reach new areas, and even defeat otherwise invulnerable enemies.
Each level is a floor of the tower and contains three keys that must be collected before moving on. These are either protected by enemies, or, in the case of what I played, initially out of reach. By using the Wiimote's cursor, I was able to rotate foreground elements to create platforms from their shadows. In one instance, I needed to do this in order to kill flying enemies -- moving a girder enabled shadow arrows to shoot past it, taking them out. Before continuing on, though, I had to return the beam to its original position or get shot myself.
The enemies, like the player character, are shadows. In addition to the flying enemies, I used my sword to stab huge shadow spiders, being careful to back away when they pounced. There is a life meter, which is actually based on the "mass" of your shadow. The idea here being that (as some believe) the soul has weight, and, as you activate "memories" found throughout levels -- left by others who have passed through the tower -- the shadow's mass increases, and with it your maximum health. Defeating enemies releases orbs that replenish any health you may have lost while squaring off against them.
Every level in the game will have portals to what were described to me as unique challenges. It's in these that light source manipulation is used in a couple of different ways. As you can see in the gameplay trailer at the top of this post, one involves rotating the physical stage in order to create a path for your character. The one I encountered required me to "grab" a slider with the Wiimote and carefully adjust the angle of the light source to make shadow platforms appear in different proximity to one another. I'd leap from one to the next, then need to adjust the lighting so that a platform that appeared to be on the right was now on the left, for example. It reminded me of a two-dimensional take on Sony's PS3 and PSP game echochrome.
Though I played just the one level, I got to see portions of other, later ones, where the puzzle elements became increasingly involved and clever. I can't wait to play more of the game, now that I know it's charming, clever and (despite appearances) not a clone of ICO and -- without a shadow of a doubt -- it's fun.