Here we investigate the overlooked, the underappreciated, the Shameworthy titles of the world. Jump in to an existing mission thread and give your thoughts, or start your own to kick off a discussion.
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Rampant Bicycle

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Shad'O: So Psychonauts and Fieldrunners walk into a bar...

by Rampant Bicycle » Mon Jul 07, 2014 2:53 pm

The scene: chez nous.

It is about 9:30 p.m., a work night. Dinner and chores are completed. Normally it would be game time, but...we're having a little trouble deciding.

Not because of a lack of things to play - no, quite the opposite. Thanks to the Steam sale we have an embarrassment of riches. It's that OTHER "nothing to play" sensation familiar to all who partake of any entertainment medium: even though we are surrounded by things to read/watch/play, none of them seems to be of any interest just now.

This is usually, in our experience, a sign that we're looking to read/watch/play something very specific, and in this case it seems to be true. What we want to play is...something sim-ish, something that might let us build a city and play with it, perhaps something a bit like Tropico or Civ. Or Majesty, Mark tells me, though I've never played it.

Or perhaps something tower-defense-y. Something more about management than twitch action.

We don't manage to find a sim, but we do manage to locate a truly bizarre little entry in the tower defense category.

Allow me to present Shad'O, in which a young boy awakens to find himself in a kind of nightmarish netherworld, where fragments of memories float in an red, obscuring fog. Accompanying him is his teddy bear, looking very much the worse for wear (and more than slightly creepy.)

The fog is forgetfulness, the bear informs him. And to preserve what remains of his memories he must keep it - and the monsters that dwell within it - at bay. The stage is set for a gradual exploration and revelation of just what's happened to put our hero in this place...



We didn't really have any idea what to expect when we picked this up, since it was very literally a spur of the moment purchase because the genre seemed right.

Imagine what might happen if Fieldrunners and Psychonauts went out drinking one night and came up with an idea for a brilliant collaboration; that's about the size of it.

The visuals aren't AAA material, of course - this is an indie game through and through - but they are rather lovely: whoever is on the art team over there has a pretty good handle on the "creepy childhood" idea, and presents us with levels overshadowed by ominous, looming snowmen and cuddly patchwork towers that can nevertheless unleash merry havoc on the shadowy enemy. (And, mysteriously, yellow cat pajamas.)

The tower defense mechanics will be familiar to genre veterans, though there are some additions that mix things up (for instance, a concealing "fog of war" that prevents you from seeing beyond your towers' range.) Items like mines and the like are largely replaced in Shad'O by spells; these are powered by collecting the 'pieces of shadow' dropped by enemies when they are killed, and tactical use of them can be a life saver.

Shad'O is by a French team, and it kind of shows; the writing isn't the work of a native English speaker. Arguably this contributes to the weird ambience, however, even if the acting is, er...well. ACTING! :)

Still, it is (so far) a rather pretty little game with some sound tower defense mechanics underpinning it; if you're in the mood for something of that type but don't want yet another military-themed iteration (and have played Plants vs. Zombies to death), this might be just the ticket.

(We're still looking for that city-building game, by the way; nominations welcome.)
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Alex Connolly

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Re: Shad'O: So Psychonauts and Fieldrunners walk into a bar.

by Alex Connolly » Mon Jul 07, 2014 8:47 pm

Sounds intriguing.

And yes, Majesty. Do Majesty.

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