When the Germans from the small indie studio Monokel introduced us to White Shadows for the first time last year, the title aroused my curiosity. Between big vibes reminiscent of Limbo, its committed approach that hits on strong subjects such as suicide or abuse, and a dystopian world stuffed with crappy metaphors, the trip had great promise. Yeah, he had…
A crow without its calendos
Projected into a world as dark as its artistic direction, White Shadows sends us into the feathers of a humanoid crow living in the slums of a crappy techie megacity, ruled with an iron fist by a sinister Ministry. Without anyone explaining the why and how, the young crow goes in search of what seems to be her freedom. Going straight ahead, she decides to cross full armor the oozing entrails ofa city that will not stop harassing her throughout, in the true sense of the word.
Yes, since not content with stuffing the heads of its “inhabitants” with great propaganda, the whole city makes it a point of honor to destroy the crows, seen as parasites, carriers of the evil eye, small fry to be eliminated . The whole game then turns into executioner. Nothing to do here with its difficulty, totally non-existent, but it’s the whole city that oppresses us, us and our condition as a baby bird. Targeted by propagandist spots, stormy posters or even announcements on loudspeakers that puke horrors that are difficult to understand as it screams. The inhabitants, an armada of zombified pigs, are herded like beasts and reduced to a state of pure and simple slavery. Crushed by their government and squeezed, literally, to the core. Many horrifying sequences also adorn the backgrounds.
In more ways than one, White Shadows is anxiety-provoking. The studio gives us practically no information on the lore, we are just as lost as our Crow and we take all the surrounding horrors in the face as we progress. It is rather effective and the environmental narration, based on terrifying metaphorical images, has its little effect. The artistic direction also plays a major role in the suffocating atmosphere that emerges from the software. White Shadows uses only three colors: black, white and grays. Result a dark and tortured universe that takes to the guts.
The city itself is nothing but a heap of disproportionate metal structures, the buildings intertwine in veritable maze of pipes through which a whole heap of automated machines thread their way. Aesthetically, White Shadows is successful, there is nothing to complain about, even if we will rail on the great abundance of visually too explicit allegories which, ultimately, somewhat deserve this cryptic turn of the narration, especially since the topics covered are never in-depth. The desire to point out the evils of today’s society, the deviations of humanity, as well as to touch on powerful subjects, is there. But it’s a little too academic and far from being as fine as teased by the studio, despite the presence of some sequences, in particular of the actions that we will perform, which come to qualify certain remarks. Damage.
A dark and tortured universe that grips the guts
Too many messages kills the messages
Always in this desire to bring its contemplative and metaphorical aspect to the fore, White Shadows smoothes its gameplay to the extreme. Minimalist apps that bet absolutely everything on their narration and their atmosphere, we have already seen some, and some very good ones even, but White Shadows misses the mark.
If the absence of difficulty is a choice, just as some games are inherently difficult, the gameplay and the puzzles, and even the staging, are much too refined to bring pep, and you end up getting bored a tad. A peak for a game that ends in one go in about 2 hours. Our baby bird is a little soft and reacts quite heavily, sometimes giving the impression of input lag, when it is not. And although during her progress she equips herself with a pinch of skills – and I can’t say more without spoiling some narrative effects – nothing saves her and she will continue to drag her leg until the end.
The level design and puzzles don’t help to stimulate us either. With a 100% 2D scrolling process, we move straight ahead, somewhat playing with the verticality offered by the city’s architecture, but that’s about it. We’ll jump on two or three platforms from time to time, we’ll push a couple of crates and we’ll climb a lot of ladders, but that’s it. The puzzles meanwhile, also devoid of difficulty, do not even try to make us think and are settled in two steps. It’s really a shame, since many similar works have managed to link all these elements and, even if it means drawing inspiration from them, White Shadows could have gone all the way to get the best out of them.
- artistically inspired
- Topics that hurt
- The metaphorical…
The lessers :
- A less inspired level-design
- Much too smooth gameplay
- … but too little depth
- Difficulties in moving
- Enigmas that are not crazy
- An unstimulating 2-hour one shot
THE RESULTS OF THE White Shadows TEST
White Shadows is a soft that can be swallowed in one gulp. Short, the game tries to send us a good number of messages on strong, current subjects and which obviously speak to us a lot. However, by wanting to bet everything on this aspect, the game forgets everything else and we tend to lose track. Fortunately, the title is only done in about two short hours, and sports a singular aesthetic as well as an effective artistic direction.