Shadow Puppeteer is an independent game title developed by Sarepta Studio and published by Snow Cannon Games. What began as a university endeavor for the “Dare to be Digital” program ended up growing into a full-fledged game, bursting with creativity and becoming an example of why indie games have become so beloved. Already receiving accolades, such as the 2015 Indie Prize Director’s Choice Award, Shadow Puppeteer was originally released for Windows in 2014, but its current release on the Wii U eShop showcases the game’s full potential and is the definitive version of the title.
The game is an endearing puzzle-platformer co-op experience about a boy and his shadow. The titular Shadow Puppeteer has stolen the shadows of the residents of a small village and it is up to the boy and his shadow to track down the Puppeteer and restore the shadows back to their rightful place. One of the incredibly unique things about the game is the fact that the story is told purely through visuals and music; there is no dialogue in the game. In many respects, it reminds me George Lucas’ approach to Star Wars; he strove to tell a story using the same basic philosophy, being inspired by the silent films of the ’20s and ’30s. It works masterfully in Shadow Puppeteer and sets it apart creatively from any other game currently on the market.
Where Shadow Puppeteer really shines is in its puzzles and cooperative play. While Shadow Puppeteer is a platformer, there is a huge emphasis on players working together in order to solve puzzles and traverse each stage. The puzzles make you think outside the box, which can make some of them a bit challenging. There were some points where I was simply stumped, but when I altered my perspective a bit, I had that “aha!” moment which was an incredibly rewarding feeling. It’s even moreso while playing with a partner. Many of the puzzles involve light manipulation in order for each player to advance, taking advantage of shadows, and it does a masterful job at this. It is such a unique concept and it really makes players think critically. Even moreso than that, if you are playing co-op, teamwork is a necessity and players actually end up complimenting each other very well with the different modes in which they think, and this really helps when it comes to solving the game’s puzzles together. What one player might not pick up on, another might, and it makes for a very satisfying experience. The game does not include an online mode, but that simply doesn’t matter; it was made with the intention of bringing console gaming back into the living room, and it does just that.
Shadow Puppeteer is thought of as a couple’s game by the developers, and it was even on sale during Valentine’s Day on the Wii U eShop. They are not wrong. Playing with a partner is very fun, even if, say, your boyfriend or girlfriend is not a gamer. The game has a certain charm to it and is very easy for anyone to pick up and play from a control standpoint. It’s actually one of the better co-op experiences I’ve played in years, and that really speaks volumes with respect to how much of a point of emphasis cooperative play was to the developers. It’s so rewarding to work together with a friend/family member/significant other and solve puzzles along the way in order to traverse each area, especially the more difficult stages.
While Shadow Puppeteer is truly a co-op experience, there is also a single-player mode. While it can be difficult at times, controlling both the boy and his shadow at the same time, it’s a very special feeling when you are able to complete a very difficult puzzle while maintaining your coordination. When trying out single player I messed up a million times, but when I succeeded, I couldn’t wipe that smile off of my face.
Another really unique aspect of the game is the art style. It actually reminds me of something out of a Pixar film, and even though the graphics aren’t breathtaking from a technical standpoint, it still looks fantastic. Every piece of music fits with what is occurring on screen, especially during cutscenes. While the game is only a few hours long (maybe three or so; it just depends on the player[s]), it is such an enjoyable experience. It would be interesting to play with a multitude of different people to see how their mode of thinking and play style changes the experience.
Shadow Puppeteer is one of the best dedicated co-op experiences to come out in years. It really brings gaming back into the living room and encourages face-to-face interaction between players rather than the impersonal nature of online gaming. The menu is a bit robust and the graphics will not blow you away, but the puzzle solving, cooperative play, and the unparalleled concept behind the game is what makes this title shine. It is the perfect example of what a game studio can do when given freedom without limitations, and the results are nothing short of astounding. Shadow Puppeteer is one of the most creative, clever, and unique indie titles to come out in a long time.
Thank you Snow Cannon Games for providing Gamer Professionals with a copy of Shadow Puppeteer for review purposes.