Sometimes, I just look at a game and decide I want to play and review it on nothing but looks alone. White Shadows from developer by Monokel and publisher by Thunderful is one of those games. Striking game art is a weakness of mine and this game’s trailer sold me in seconds. The art style also really suits my (current) blog design.
The wolves are watching! Venture through a captivating but brutal dystopia where our young adventurer Ravengirl will travel through this huge city’s brightest highs and delve to its darkest depths on her perilous journey of discovery and finding her destiny where hope seems in short supply.
Okay, let’s get the obvious comparison out of the way first. Limbo… this looks like Limbo from 2010. Stark black & white graphics, cinematic platformer with a touch of puzzle-solving. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was a sequel… it’s not. White Shadows is a whole new game, it just really, really looks a lot like Limbo. I was going to quickly cover the story here, but this really is a hard one to explain. I mean, the game opens with the following warning screen.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of subject matter I was thinking I’d be dealing with in a platform game. That warning screen isn’t lying either. The only thing is that those issues aren’t depicted via humans, the story involves animals. I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting that maybe the devs here are fans of George Orwell.
So in White Shadows, you play as a raven (girl) who stands up against and fights an oppressive world where (as the game states) all animals are equal… except birds. I really don’t want to give too much away here because this plot of the game is told in such a wonderfully cinematic and silent way that this really is something you need to experience first-hand. But basically, you play as a minority that faces all sorts of discrimination from the (literal) pigs that are in charge.
This game is stunning, the minimal but highly detailed and busy graphics keep your eyes working from start to end. The places you’ll be making your way through really are amazing and full of depth. I just kept looking in the background and soaked up the visuals. Trains speed past you, flying ships swoop over your head and towards the screen, billboards light up and drop hints of the kind of world you are in. The place is gorgeous and the team here have created a stunningly wonderful environment. It feels very animated movie at times.
In terms of the gameplay, you already know what you are getting here. Again, Limbo is the biggest and most obvious comparison to make. A cinematic platformer with some puzzle solving and in that regard, White Shadows hits all the right notes. The platforming is solid, the controls are basic but you don’t need anything complex here anyway. One button to jump, one to grab/use and the stick to move, that’s it. The puzzles are a mix of classic moving blocks to using light/shadows to get past security and so on. With the gameplay, there’s not a great deal to cover here. It is simple but really effective and well designed. White Shadows is a really fantastic little title… but it’s not all good news. For the rest, I need to move on to the final bit of this review.
So, onto my conclusion and I see if White Shadows is worth the £17 asking price. First, I just need to explain how I do my reviews. I usually play a game three or four times when I review them. I normally put the game on for a minimum of three hours and play while taking a few notes of the things I want to talk about. I’ll then play again, this time with the aim of getting to the end credits and to get a better understanding of the game, while refining my notes. I then play for a third (sometimes fourth) time and I’ll write the first draft of my review as I play. This really does vary depending on the length of the game but that is my usual method.
With White Shadows, I couldn’t actually do that first step of playing the game for three hours because… I actually finished it in just a shade over two hours. I got stuck on one simple puzzle because I was overlooking something. Still, other than that, this game was a breeze from start to end. I bet I could even get that playtime down to ninety minutes or so… and I’m not a speedrunner at all. Seriously, just over two hours and I was done. For £17, this game is simply not worth it. That’s the bad news.
As gloriously beautiful as White Shadows… it’s really not that much at all. There’s no reason for multiple playthroughs either. There are no secrets, no collectables, no unlockables, nothing. This is a one and done experience and you can see the end credits in two hours, even less if you don’t get stuck on the same puzzle I did. I’m willing to bet that this could even be finished in under two hours with ease.
I really don’t want to be dismissive of the dev team at Monokel. Looking into them, they are a very small team and this is their first game. For a first effort, this is a great title. The visuals are stunning, the gameplay is solid, there’s some amazing use of classic music and the story is wonderfully crafted, while dealing with some hugely serious issues in a very clever way (see that warning screen). I adore everything about White Shadows except its price point. For a two hour (or less) game, £17 is way too much to be asking. I want to recommend this, I really do… but not for £17. Even £10 feels too much.