Version tested: PSP
If life is, indeed, like a box of chocolates, then we'd opine that penning one of Eurogamer's review roundups is rather like a box of chocolates bought for you by a relative who doesn't like you very much, with the Tesco discount label only half peeled off. You never know quite what you're going to get, but the chances are you won't like many flavours, and may feel somewhat ill by the end. Not to mention fatter.
Now all that remains to be seen is whether this latest batch of PSP treats can dish up some unexpectedly delicious centres, or whether the chocolate will be cheap and the nasty chewy ones that stick between your molars all too abundant. Or, indeed, whether this metaphor will ever end. Sorry.
- Publisher: Ivolgamus
- Developer: Ivolgamus
Like every other handheld console in the short and tumultuous history of portable gaming, the PSP isn't short a puzzle game or three. However, none of them are quite like Fading Shadows - in fact, nothing we've ever played is quite like Fading Shadows.
In theory, you play a young girl with clairvoyant abilities, who attempts to rescue her brother from the clutches of an evil sorcerer who plans on conquering the Castle of Heaven by sacrificing this innocent child. In practice, you play a beam of sunlight that guides a rolling orb (in which the boy's soul is sealed) around a collection of imaginative, atmospheric and sometimes genuinely inspired levels.
Your controls are fairly simple. You can widen the beam of light, or focus it more tightly - a more focused beam moves the orb faster, but runs the risk of burning the orb. By rolling over switches in the floor you can turn the orb into different types. Metal is impervious to the light beam, and can jump slightly by tapping O, but it gradually rusts in water; wood floats on water, but burns easily if you shine the beam on it. Hitting triangle reverts the orb to its default state, glass - which doesn't float, isn't damaged by water, only burns very slowly but will shatter if you slam it too hard against something.
Essentially, then, you have three forms to play with, and by combining this with various door switches, rivers, ponds of water, elevated platforms, and even mirrors that reflect the beams around, the game crafts a superb variety of puzzle environments. Each one is designed like an abandoned room, tower or courtyard in a magical castle, and with no time limit, you're left free to explore and muse on solutions in your own time - which suits the wistful, melancholy atmosphere of the whole thing perfectly.
It's by no means perfect - it's a touch on the short side, the enormous load delays between levels are a massive source of frustration, and we noticed our light beam getting caught on scenery on a few occasions. However, even allowing for that, this is a hidden gem in the PSP catalogue. Beautiful, understated and relaxing, this is to normal "marble puzzle" games what ICO was to normal platform games.