App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Where Shadows Slumber is like a nightmarish version of Monument Valley. It presents a lot of similarly M.C. Escher-like environments, but tells a much darker story and centers much of its gameplay around light and shadow. It may not be quite as polished as other puzzle games like it, but Where Shadows Slumber has enough going on in it to make it strangely compelling.
Light the way
Players begin their journey in Where Shadows Slumber when they take control of an old man named Obe, who just so happens to be walking by just as a mysterious lantern falls out of the sky. After picking up the lantern, he quickly learns that it has special powers, and then just as quickly learns there are creatures that want to steal the lantern for themselves.
While on the run from these creatures, you control Obe as he journeys through various strange environments, most of which aren’t navigable without his trusty lantern. For some reason, when shadows are cast from it (by going around a pillar, for example), parts of the world change when re-exposed to light. This mechanic gets stretched to its limits throughout Where Shadows Slumber, but gets used in ways that are constantly surprising and novel.
Valley of death
If you take a look at any given screenshot of Where Shadows Slumber, it’s not hard to see that it takes more than just a little inspiration from Monument Valley. In addition to looking quite a bit like ustwo Games’s celebrated puzzler, Where Shadows Slumber borrows some mechanics whole cloth and mixes them in with its own lantern-based tricks.
This might make it sound like Where Shadows Slumber lacks a little bit of its own identity, but this is exactly where you’d be wrong. This game is dark, and I don’t just mean that it has shadows. Where Shadows Slumber breaks up its levels with cutscenes of Obe as he struggles on his journey, and these scenes routinely feature violent life and death struggles backed by a really intense soundtrack.
Underlying all of this, there’s another key differentiator between Where Shadows Slumber and Monument Valley, but it’s not a good one. As fun and creative as the puzzling here may be, there are several technical issues with the game that keep this game from earning a higher review score.
The most common issue I experienced while playing Where Shadows Slumber was a bug that would prevent me from tapping to enter a new level. For whatever reason, there would just be times where my taps did nothing, and I’d have to restart the game to resume play. There were also two separate instances where puzzles broke on me. One broke in the sense that I didn’t have to do anything but simply walk through the level, but the other one—the game’s final puzzle—I had to restart several times because key items would disappear from the level. These are pretty significant problems, but they didn’t really stop me from wanting to keep playing Where Shadows Slumber. The game is just that good.
The bottom line
There are some really rough edges to Where Shadows Slumber, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to play it through to the end. Its combination of creative and challenging puzzles mixed with an intensely dark story made me want to see it through, and I’m glad that I did. Personally, I’d much rather play something with the flawed ambition of Where Shadows Slumber than an overly polished, iterative puzzle adventure, but I also realize that not everyone else feels that way.