STAFF REVIEW of Shady Part of Me (Xbox One)

Friday, January 15, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Shady Part of Me Box art The puzzle platformer genre had a huge year in 2020, and Focus Home Interactive and freshman French developer Douze Dixièmes decided to give it a try with their first game, Shady Part of Me. After being kept under wraps for its entire development, Shady Part of Me was revealed at the Game Awards 2020 and was available the same day to play.

The focus of Shady Part of Me is the relationship between a girl and her shadow. This relationship plays out almost like an imaginary friend as you work together to navigate an ever-changing environment together. You start out in what appears to be a psychiatric hospital before moving on to other locations like a sewer, a library, creepy carnival etc. The girl and her shadow discuss their journey through these areas and little snippets of text, along with their dialogue, reflect their doubts and fears as they move along. You must swap between the two characters to maneuver your way through the levels and this is easily accomplished by the push of a single button. Although two sides of the single person, the girl and her shadow move very differently throughout the game, and determining the way for them to both get through the levels is where the puzzle solving comes in.

The girl is terrified of the light, but she can pull or push objects, and exists in a 3D plane. The shadow can’t exist in the dark, needs the light areas, and must walk on shadows. She can jump and only exists in the 2D plane. Both characters can walk and pull/push levers though. Knowing their respective skills and limitations allows you to manipulate the environment for each other. This is a beautiful combination of two separate gameplay styles and an example of co-ordination as neither character can complete an area on their own. The shadow must create shadows for the girl, while the girl must manipulate light for the shadow.

Shady Part of Me is relatively short, around 4 or 5 hours, depending how good you are with the puzzles and is split into a Prologue and four subsequent Acts. Game mechanics start off simple and become more advanced as you move through the game. The puzzles in Shady Part of Me tend to be not too difficult, as there weren’t that many puzzles that took more than a minute or two to think about. There were a few that took me a bit longer to figure out as well. The ability to rewind helps you get through all situations without having to restart if you make a mistake. As with most games, there are also items to collect, in this case, 98 paper origami cranes. Chapter select for the game allows you to pop back to any of the chapters after the end of the story to pick up any that you have missed or to search out achievements in the game.

Both the girl and her shadow are voiced by actress Hannah Murray, who was best known to me for her role of Ginny in Game of Thrones. She uses a very childlike voice for the girl, while she uses a more mature sounding speaking voice for the shadow. These choices helped make it clear early on that the girl is more introverted and scared, while the shadow is more independent. Throughout the game, Murray is the only voice you will be hearing outside of a few words from what is presumed to be a doctor, but she manages to carry the story on her own quite well. I won’t delve too deeply into the narrative, as it would spoil the enjoyment of piecing it together on your own. Much of the story didn’t make sense to me early in the game, but as the story started to come together, I was moved more than I expected to be. Sometimes games speak to you in a way you least expect them to. 2020 proved to be a difficult year for a lot of people and I could personally understand the feelings of isolation, fear and uncertainty that were dominant themes throughout the game.

Shady Part of Me's visuals are cel-shaded and makes excellent use of its muted colour palette. Shading changes depending on the character you are in control of at the time. As you approach the end of one act in the game, you will see the next section is just outlined, not filled in or shaded. As you move both characters to their finish circles, the next section will fill in and you can move on. This was artistically a brilliant choice.

The music in the game was easy to listen to and get lost in. After playing the game through (and while writing this) I went back to sections to remind myself of the varied tones and accompanying music. The music was simple but moving, compromised primarily of piano, guitar and vocals without lyrics, the music set the scene for each level and helped you understand the feelings of the girl in each section of the game.

Indie games often get overshadowed by their much larger and longer counterparts, but sometimes a solid indie title is just what you need to shake up your gaming experience. While it may not be an exceptionally long game, Shady Part of Me is worth the time playing it through. It has interesting gameplay and a beautiful aesthetic that surrounds what is a pretty somber story. In a game that revolves around themes of darkness, sadness, uncertainty and fear, one quote from the game was a bright spot for me: “Hand in hand, we break free from this nether. Step by step, we will rise together”.

**Shady Part of Me was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

This was one of the most moving games I've played, thank you.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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