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ShadowPlay - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | Deep Fried Entertainment | 1 Player / 2 Players (local co-operative play) | Out Now (North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; WiiMotionPlus
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3rd February 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Marketed as the very first WiiWare title to utilize the WiiMotionPlus accessory, ShadowPlay is a unique concept that doesn't settle with just "fitting in" amongst other puzzle games. While games like Tetris Party have taken advantage of time-tested formulas, Deep Fried Entertainment has effectively strived for a different sense of appeal in their WiiWare debut. In so doing, its creativity really stands as an excellent example of what the service is all about.

    As you probably already guessed, the idea of the game is to solve puzzles by manipulating the shadows of household and other commonly-used objects. When starting a puzzle, you'll be provided with an outline of the item in question via an on-screen projection in the stage foreground. On the right side of the screen, you'll find a film strip full of individual items that must be used to somehow replicate the displayed outline as accurately as possible. When you place an item into the working area, it will remain suspended in the air and players can move and twist them in anyway they like. 

After placing the hand cursor above an item you wish to change, you press the A Button to grab it and move it around the work area with your Wii Remote's pointer. To enlarge or reduce the shadow, you simply select the desired object and use the up or down buttons on the D-Pad to adjust its placement accordingly. When you grab something with the B Button, you'll enter 'Rotation Mode' where you can twist the object in place using WiiMotionPlus (or the Nunchuk). To lock an item in place, you can press the Minus Button, thereby preventing it from being shifted accidentally. 

    Some developers have treated additional peripheral support as more of an afterthought than anything else. Here, though, WiiMotionPlus isn't used as a mere marketing ploy; instead, the device is used to make gameplay that much more immersive. Feedback of the device is terrific, and adds a greater sense of control which is great especially coming from a third-party developer. Beyond the Rotation mode itself, as mentioned, forward and backward movements of airborne objects have been mapped to the D-Pad. This can be seen as a disappointing move considering the capabilities of the device. At the same time, it's likely that the developers wanted to create a user-friendly experience, one that wouldn't be complicated by awkward motions that the average players might not have the patience for. 

Many times you'll need to adjust the camera of the working area to make it easier to work with the objects. In order to do this, you'll first need to have no objects selected; in order to deselect, you simply click off into the background. Once you reach this point, you'll have more control over the views that oversee how the game is played. To adjust the horizontal view, you hold the B Button at the corners of the TV screen and move your Wii Remote around. To take control of the vertical Y-axis, you press up or down on the D-Pad which will zoom into the screen at the very front of the stage or zoom out to a wider viewpoint (respectively). The camera adjustments do take a bit of getting used to but once you get the hang of it, it'll soon become second nature.

    When you make your first move in the puzzle of your choice, the timer in the top-left hand corner of the screen will begin. As you begin to fill the outline, the bottom-left of the screen will show coloured reels that will change as you get more (or less) accurate to the displayed image. Once you feel that you've solved the puzzle to an adequate degree, you press the clapboard to stop the timer. Then, the game will finalize your run with a Bronze, Silver or Gold Reel, and you move onto the next puzzle if you so desire. Gold medal requirements for some puzzles will be stricter whereas others will be more forgiving. Either way, having this feature works for obvious reasons as it gives players something to strive for when it comes to repeat play.

The puzzles themselves usually consist of fairly straight-forward, recognizable designs such as a snowman or a lamp post. On occasion, you'll be surprised to find some more complicated designs that require you to have a better understanding of controlling the shadows. The mix of shapes and outlines is what prevents the game from becoming mundane and they help extend the replay value for the player. The game contains 100 puzzles, so you're bound to find a few that you'll enjoy trying to solve. If you stick with the game, playing just a few stages each day, ShadowPlay will last you quite a while.

    On that same train of thought, two other features have been incorporated to add to the game's longevity. For one, the game features co-op support, allowing you and a friend to try and solve puzzles together. It may not be the most entertaining experience out there but it certainly gets everyone in the room to use their brains, looking at ordinary items in a completely different "light".  ShadowPlay also has a Free Play mode where you can use some of the items you've uncovered in the other puzzles to design your very own shadow creations! Unfortunately, this option does have its limitations as it's restricted to a certain quota of items. Still, it allows players to express their creativity in the same vein as games like Boom Blox. 

The developers have definitely been able to cater to the casual market with this game. ShadowPlay is a great family game and siblings, parents, and children will get the most out of this game. Not all will appreciate the game and it's likely that older audiences will pass it off as an unexciting kids game. Not to mention, too, that the novelty of the original concept may wear off for some after the 50th puzzle. However, parents especially will find great enjoyment from this title, being able to bond with their children as they let their creative sides take over. Mind you it may not be as accessible as it should be for its target audience, but the entire approach is well-suited to the demographic they had in mind when developing this game.

    There are a few issues that prevent ShadowPlay from being as strong of a package as it could've been, especially when it comes to presentation. The movie theme works really well in this case and the graphics look pretty clean thanks to the attention given to the background props. But the music has a sort of feel that you'd expect from a children's PC game such I Spy. It somewhat suits the style of the game but having it repeat over and over and over again is enough to drive players annoyed to say the least. Had this been rectified, the game would've definitely been more enjoyable for those of a slightly older age group.

In addition, ShadowPlay could've benefited greatly from having an even stronger focus towards extended content. For instance, implementing a Versus mode would've been a good feature to have, where two players could race to re-create outlines the fastest. But even without this aspect, the creative aspect could've been explored a bit more. Although the Free Play option is a great addition, the inability to save your creations in the game prevents it from shining. Perhaps the Wii's Message Board capabilities could've been used to allow players to save and share their creations. It's a bit disappointing that the developers weren't able to include this feature.

    It may not be perfect, but beyond the novelty of the concept as well as the peripheral use, there really is nothing like it. Even with its share of flaws, having a strong first title has effectively enabled them to get their foot in the door, as it were. If ShadowPlay is any indication, Deep Fried Entertainment has a future ahead of themselves on this platform and we eagerly look forward to seeing what other creative ideas they have in store. The developers might not have stolen the show as far as puzzle games are concerned, and the game itself may not appeal to everyone in the long run. But ShadowPlay is still a well-executed concept for such a modest price that families especially will want to invest in.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Great concept with pretty solid mechanics, WiiMotionPlus device is used well
Presentation 7/10 - Good visuals, music can get very irritating, movie theme carried throughout
Enjoyment 4/5 - Families will especially enjoy interacting with their children, concept may wear off for some
Extra Content 4/5 - 100 puzzles in total, good value for 800 points, Free Play option, ability to aim for Gold Reels

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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