App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Fans of classic point-and-click adventure games should be well aware of Wadjet Eye Games, a development studio that's been putting out traditional-style adventure games for over ten years now. Last year, Wadjet Eye ported one of their older titles–Primordia–to mobile, but have now graced the App Store with their latest game, Shardlight. Like Primordia, it's a dystopian romp with extremely conventional mechanics. Unlike Primordia though, Shardlight amps things up in the production values department while telling a kind of weak story.
It ain't easy being green
In the world of Shardlight, a bombing has destroyed most of civilization and replaced it with a corrupt and faceless oligarchy and a terrible disease known as Green Lung. The only known treatment for the disease is a temporary vaccine that keeps the sickness at bay temporarily. Those that can afford it pay, while those that can't must take on “Lottery Jobs” to win a chance to receive one. You play the game as Amy Wellard, a poor scavenger that finds herself on a “Lottery Job” at the game's opening.
From this job, things quickly spiral out into an adventure that features espionage, religious cults, and political strife, most of which is moved along by Amy as you move her between environments, talk to people, and combine items to solve puzzles. When I say that Wadjet Eye makes games in the traditional-style, I mean it. There isn't a single puzzle in Shardlight that strays from tried-and-true formulas like item combinations, fetching items for characters, or using environmental hints to trigger events and advance the story.
As conventional as the gameplay in Shardlight is, its story is a bit less expected, though this isn't exactly a good thing. Although Shardlight creates a rich world and some characters with depth, the twists and turns in the game's plot could have been paced a little better.
Specifically, Shardlight's back half moves at such a breakneck speeds that the plot twists and payoffs ring pretty hollow and feel unearned. The puzzles in this back half are also so dead simple that moving to the next story beat takes seconds in some cases, which just exacerbates things.
Out with the old, in with the new
Despite the odd storytelling of Shardlight, I enjoyed being in the game's world, thanks mostly to some great voice acting and an appropriately atmospheric soundtrack. Shardlight also displays character portraits while characters are talking, which go a long way to bring some non-verbal personality to the pixelated people on screen.
As great as these little touches are, I do wish that Shardlight made the jump to mobile with features that are more accommodating to those that want to play the game on-the-go. The save system in particular feels really archaic and non-mobile friendly. Although it does have an auto-save system, it isn't particularly reliable. When you pair this fact that the game regularly reboots to the menu when you suspend play, it's extremely easy to put yourself in a position where you have to replay sections of the game. These problems persist across Wadjet Eye's other titles, but they feel more and more noticable and bothersome with each new release.
The bottom line
Shardlight is a solid adventure game that bungles a few story and puzzle elements toward the end of it. As a port, it could use some work on being made a little more mobile-friendly too. Overall, it's not one of Wadjet Eye's strongest releases, but it's still enjoyable as far as conventional point-and-click adventure games go.