Published by: Agetec
Developed by: Ivolgamus
Memory Stick Duo: 256 KB
Wi-Fi Compatible (Ad Hoc) (1-2 Players)
Last week I received a peculiar looking package at my home office. As I opened up the package I found a bag of marbles along with Fading Shadows for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). It had been awhile since I had reviewed a PSP game but it had been about 25 years since I tossed some marbles around. Wondering why a bag of marbles was sent with the game, I quickly reviewed the reading material provided with the game. Other then suggesting I relax with a game of ‘Ringer’, I still did not make the connection. It did become apparent after a few minutes into Fading Shadows why the marbles were sent. Fading Shadows is all about guiding your orb, which resembles a marble, through a world of “danger and adventure”. And much like a game of Marbles, Fading Shadows is fun to play in short spurts, but unfortunately it just did not sustain my entertainment level for any lengthy periods of time.
In terms of the visuals, Fading Shadows is better than I expected. Does it take advantage or optimize the power of the PSP? Not quite, but it is much better than what we typically see in puzzle games on this machine. For starters, the overall level designs are by far and away the most impressive feature of the game. They are slick looking and the detail that goes into the rooms where you are guiding the orb from one end to another is outstanding. From the small cracks in the walls to the glowing beam of light shining down on your orb, Fading Shadows features some pretty solid visuals. Additionally, the concept art which can be unlocked by finding puzzle pieces throughout the levels is impressive.
On the downside, some of the floating objects lacked detail and the game does suffer from some occasional blurriness when the game transitions from one level to another. This was likely intentional but it is still a bit of an eye sore. The game also suffers from some occasional framerate issues. Nevertheless, at the end of the day Fading Shadows is a decent looking game with above average visuals.
As far as the sound is concerned, Fading Shadows is less than expected, particularly in the music department. The in-game music features ambient and mellow tunes which seemingly loop over and over. At one point I thought I was at the Vancouver Aquarium staring at marine life and listening to music perfectly suited for aquarium watching. Unfortunately no recognizable artists are featured in this game and the available music just starts to grate you after a period of time. About a half an hour into the game I had to turn the music off as it really did affect my enjoyment.
The in-game sound effects on the other hand are decent. For instance, the sound of your orb crashing into a glass wall was very sharp and clear. It actually startled me at some points for a split second as I thought a glass may have broken in a nearby room. Other in-game sound such as the orb rolling around the levels was equally effective. In fact, the orb had distinctly different sounds when it was made of different materials such as wood, glass or metal. It was certainly a nice touch and added a hint of realism to the game. All in all, the sound in Fading Shadows for the PSP is a bit of ‘mixed bag’ with some good and some bad, with the music falling in the latter.
Fading Shadows for the PSP very much reminds me of that Wooden Labyrinth Puzzle game I used to have when I was a child. The idea of the game was to steer the steel ball bearing along the marked way by using the two knobs to tilt the board. It provided endless amounts of entertainment. Fading Shadows is very similar except it is obviously in the form of a video game and has a story to go with it. Yes, believe it or not this simple little puzzle game actually has a story but it is told in the form of the concept art. Before I get into any further details of the game itself I will give some background with regards to the story which on the surface appears captivating.
Aira and her brother Erywn are living peacefully when the villainous Master Gardal captures Erwyn. Typical of most evil Masters, Gardal plans on taking over the world and in doing so wishes to overthrow the supreme fortress built to protect the world from forces of darkness. In order for Gardal to take control, a sacrifice of a pure and untainted soul, in this case Erwyn, must be made. As Erwyn is awaiting his execution Aira seals her brother’s soul inside a single teardrop and transforms the teardrop into a protective orb. To save her brother she must now guide the orb safely back to the supreme fortress using a magical beam of light.
As I suggest above, the story is pretty good and it certainly gives you something to keep in the back of your mind when the game seems pointlessly frustrating. But for the most part, the story here is irrelevant and plays no role in your ability to progress from one level to the next.
To sum Fading Shadows up is simple - guide your marble, rather your orb, through various puzzle levels. While doing this you have to figure out how to guide said orb through each level by hitting switches, deflecting beams of light on mirrors, guiding the orb over bridges, water and platforms, etc. As you progress through the game the objectives become increasingly more difficult. There are a total of 40 levels and believe me they get tough in a hurry. Sure, the concept may seem simple, yet you have to use a beam of light to guide your marble which is where all my issues with the gameplay begin to surface.
The orbs come in three forms (wood, glass and metal) and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. This complicates matters as your beam of light will break and burn the wooden and glass orbs. This occurred far too often for me especially as I was becoming accustomed to the controls and the finicky camera angles. The beam of light also has varying levels which serves to weaken or intensify the pull of the orb. The more intense, the more likely you will turn your orb into a burnt marshmallow. The overall concept of the game is deep and forces gamers to really plot out their moves. Personally I found I was wasting far too much time adjusting the strength of my beam and figuring out which orb I should be using to complete the level. That being said, many may love the depth of the game and how it really takes some brain power to advance through all the stages.
The controls are very easy to lean and pick-up. I give the developers full credit for having arguably the deepest tutorial mode I have seen in a puzzler in quite some time. For good reason, this level of a tutorial is needed as Fading Shadows as it is not a game you can pick up and play for the first time and just skip the tutorial.
The multiplayer mode is rather straight forward. It has 10 levels and is essentially a race from start to finish against the other Ad Hoc player. Of course this requires playing with another person who owns the game which sadly I was unable to find.
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