Lost in Shadow is perhaps the most literal interpretation of the phrase “2D platformer” since the Paper Mario series, as most of the action takes place in the background. You play as the shadow of a young boy that has been mystically ripped from its host body and thrown to the base of a mysterious tower. Your task is to ascend said tower, but since shadows are stuck on one plane that might prove difficult. Fortunately the tower is filled with enough light to cast a wide variety of shadows on which you can climb, jump, and otherwise treat as if they were real objects — even if those shadows are arranged somewhat differently than the structures that cast them in the real world.
It is the discrepancy between the real world and the shadows that gives Lost in Shadow most of its trademark gameplay. The boy’s shadow is accompanied by a fairy-like Spangle that you can point at and charge with light certain locations using the Wii Remote. Once charged, you can shift or rotate that object, which changes the shape of the shadows it casts and opening up new opportunities for exploration. Other areas of the tower have sources of light that can be shifted right/left or up/down and dramatically change the shadowy landscape accordingly. There is also one final way to interact with the real world, but you’ll have to climb the tower to find out about that.
Sadly, other than the light-based tricks the action in Lost in Shadow is mostly pedestrian plaftforming, along with some rudimentary combat. Early on in your travels you will come across a rusty sword and equip yourself with its shadow (which causes the real object to vanish for some mystical reason). This sword will come in handy when you begin encountering the various shadow monsters that inhabit the tower. Monsters with red eyes can be dispatched via your simple blade skills, but ones with blue eyes must be eliminated by luring them into the various spikes, arrows, buzz saws, or other traps that also litter the layout for no good reason (especially in the “residential district”) other than “platformer logic”. Defeating enemies will allow you to regain some lost health (measured in grams and increased by collecting the ninety “memories” that are scattered throughout the levels) and earn experience; gaining levels doesn’t do anything for you except allow you to hit harder, but that will be enough once you start running into tougher enemies.
The tower is broken up into several areas, usually about ten floors each. Individual floors (or sometimes groups of about three) serve as individual levels; the game automatically saves your progress whenever you move from one level to another, as well as when you enter/leave a “shadow corridor” — very light-trick intensive areas, often featuring the ability to rotate your view at specific locations in order to significantly alter the layout — or die due to running out of weight. The game keeps a running count of how many times you’ve perished, so obsessive completionists might find themselves resetting a lot to avoid the “suck counter”; you’re going to have to start from the last save either way, which can be incredibly annoying for particularly tricky areas (especially early on when you don’t have a lot of weight). Fortunately, falling into a shadowless pit isn’t an instant death; you merely lose a portion of your weight and restart back near where you fell.
The boy’s shadow is fairly agile, with its most redeeming feature being the ability to cling to ledges and pull itself up (it certainly doesn’t weigh much…), although the control to do so (push up on the nunchuk’s control stick) can be awkward at times. The only other control issue I experienced was the fact that the B button functions for both attacking and interacting with various structures, which will occasionally cause some confusion but not usually much actual trouble. By far the most difficult part of Lost in Shadow outside of its puzzles is simply playing. It takes some adjusting to train yourself to watch the 2D background and not the 3D foreground; it’s a little like learning how to view a Magic Eye puzzle, since you have to train yourself to look past your usual focus point.
Lost in Shadow will keep you thinking, and at times will frustrate you with particularly tricky jumps or other obstacles. It’s not a significantly long adventure, as a non-obsessive run-through on normal difficulty (easy and hard are also available) took me around 15 hours (acquiring 70 of 90 memories). It will seem longer than that, however, as the game has an odd structure that keeps moving the goal posts every time you think you’ve reached the conclusion. I counted at least four times where I thought the game was over but then something new was thrown at me; had I not been aware of some impending backtracking (and it will be obvious to any experienced gamer that pays attention) that count would have been five times. There is also probably a special ending for those who track down all 90 memories, but I couldn’t be bothered. Still, the game has some neat tricks and has an Ico-like visual charm. Ultimately, however, it’s hardly an essential addition to the average Wii owner’s library. If you do decide to get lost in Lost in Shadow, you should be able to find it for an MSRP bargain $40 at most retailers.