White Shadows is original, moving and thought provoking. A mesmerizing visual treat but mediocre gameplay slightly mars the experience.
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
Release date: 6 December, 2021
White Shadows is the first game by indie developers Monokelgames. It is a puzzle-platformer set in a Dystopian landscape of industry where light is a commodity and society are ruled by a group calling themselves “The Founders”.
Ravengirl, is aware that she is at the bottom of the social hierarchy and culture depicts her as dirty and irrelevant. Her life is meaningless to many, but she has a home far away where loved ones reside and she is seen as an equal. Her only salvation is to find that promised land by travelling through the dark and dangerous landscapes to be reunited with her kin.
White Shadows resonated with me more than any other game this year, and sends out a powerful message about speciesism and social hierarchy.
Being a bird, Ravengirl is quite nimble; she moves fast and can jump long distances.
The environment is vast, with big industry dominating the landscape. She will need to jump across chasms; navigate platforms by jumping over hazards; climb up objects and ladders; and even spread her wings and fly.
Ravengirl will find herself trapped in certain situations and need to escape. She can push and pull certain things and use these items to reach platforms or trigger switches. She can pull levers to work machinery and even use her small bird allies, that she encounters on her journey, who will hide her from sentries and lift her over high walls.
There are quite a few stealth sections requiring you to hide from the glare of sentinels. Sometimes, you will need to perform puzzles or platforming whilst avoiding detection. Hiding behind pillars, timing movements and using the environment and lighting conditions will help you progress.
The graphics are nothing but stunning. They are imaginative and atmospheric, and the clever use of light and shade creates an unsettling eeriness and surreal impression. You get an instant sensation of vastness against the huge backdrop of towers and endless vistas. Such a tiny frame seems minute in comparison.
Ravengirl is wonderfully animated with realistic and graceful movements, and one of the best ladder climbing animations I’ve witnessed in a bird like character!
Sound is quite minimalistic, but the white noise, and the constant drone of machinery and industrious behaviour, creates a bleak and repetitive picture of hopelessness. There are some cinematic sequences with song tunes which switch sensations from desperation to an unnatural creepiness.
White Shadows has obvious parallels with George Orwell’s Animal Farm but there are also some thought-provoking notions on the way we interact with species and how as a society we perceive them. It’s certainly an intellectual and interesting commentary on modern day practices.
I was mesmerized by this game. I found it emotional and thought provoking, but it was incredibly uncomfortable and chilling to play. The opening sequence warns us that there will be references to racism, suicide, violence, animal cruelty, forced labour and xenophobia. When I read this I was filled with trepidation; Although there are scenes of this nature, they are artistically presented, and although disturbing, are more provocative than frivolous. The dystopian landscape and drudgery of everyday life is portrayed so strongly that you feel like you have been dragged down into the cesspit along with the poor souls fighting to bathe in a brief burst of light. The constant drone of machinery, and the monochrome aesthetics, make this a bleak and foreboding place, and the desperation feels tangible.
The game looks absolutely gorgeous with some clever use of light and shade. Whilst the elite enjoy the comforts of light, and peddle it as a commodity, the social hierarchy dictates that others must wallow in the dark being ushered along by sentinels ready to deal punishment to any that step out of line. The game is clever at dropping hints and suggesting parallels with modern day life, and often my mind would drift away as the game subtly reminded me of events and situations that our society also practices. It got me questioning and considering my own choices and was a powerful and moving experience.
The story is a little ambiguous and I must say I did not fully understand the ending. There is no narration, text or voice acting and events are there for you to interpret. I have played many games like this and most of them just feel dull and opaque but White Shadows resonated with me and stirred emotions and made me care. That is no mean feat in a game of this type.
Gameplay is rather average in most departments. Platforming is not challenging and the puzzles are mainly quite easy to solve. There is nothing new or innovative in the mechanics. It’s all things I have seen before. Platforming sections are aided by generous jumping mechanics; She can leap huge gaps and not once did I struggle to make it to the other side. I was particularly impressed with the movement of Ravengirl. She looks great as she runs across the skyline and I know it sounds stupid but I really admired the way she climbed ladders. It just looked really nice.
Puzzle sections involved the usual pushing and pulling of objects but there were some interesting main puzzles dotted throughout, but they won’t stump seasoned puzzle lovers. The stealth sections were quite easy to navigate too but I did enjoy certain sections involving her small bird like friends.
There are some nice cinematic sequences which enrich the story and highlight social injustices, and the accompanying music feels military and regimented in style.
Game length is my only real concern about recommending this game at full price. Your first playthrough will be powerful, but is quite short at two to three hours. There are achievements to pick up, which I missed on my first run, and there are generous chapter selections to aid in these, but subsequent tries don’t seem as enjoyable when you know what to expect, so replay value is low.
White Shadows is original, moving and thought provoking. It left me pondering on my own choices in life and how cruel and unfair society can be depending on your stature.
If you’re looking for a challenging puzzle-platformer then look elsewhere but if you are interested in an intelligent critique on modern day practices and a mesmerizing visual treat then grab it on sale.