Most people consider light and darkness as total opposites. Two conflicting physical as well as moral principles which don’t have anything in common whatsoever. They occur independently, swapping one another, but never really coexisting at the same time because one is apparently negation of the other, and can only thrive in its absence. However, that’s not exactly true, and the team from Game Revenant evidently know the awful secret: light and darkness are actually inextricably tied, just like two sides of the same coin. Light is perceived as dazzlingly brilliant thanks to the contrast with darkness, while shadows can proliferate only under the influence of some powerful light source. And if that light source is nothing less than a magical lamp, things are bound to become very interesting, even excessively violent, which is something that Obe, the protagonist of Where Shadows Slumber, will discover the hard way.
Where Shadows Slumber is an inventive mobile puzzle adventure which obviously owes a lot to famous Monument Valley. Even on the first glance, it will be apparent that this game abounds in the same type of complex, dizzying Escherian structures which will serve as a dramatic setting for your nighttime travels. But the sensibility in the field of design and the penchant for capricious spatial and architectural deviations is a point where all similarities stop. As its subtly menacing title suggests, Where Shadows Slumber is a much darker game than Monument Valley. Indeed, be prepared for anything, because this game sure has its share of dark, meaningless violence lurking under its almost hallucinatory surface, with a degree of cruelty which will doubtlessly shock you numerous times, especially during the cutscenes. In addition, Where Shadows Slumber also possesses a truly unique puzzle mechanics, closely related to the unnerving interplay of light and shadows.
You’ll play as Obe, an old man who’s about to make a life-changing discovery. During a stroll through the gloomy, nocturnal forest, Obe found a magical lantern. Although the storyline is intentionally vague and enigmatic (which only contributes to the quality of its narration and sinister nightmarish atmosphere), somehow we’re pretty sure that this discovery wasn’t accidental, and that this lantern actually chose him for its bearer, especially since it fell from the sky practically beneath his feet. Since he obviously isn’t one to defy fate, Obe did the inevitable – he picked it up continuing with his stroll, surrounded by a shimmering pool of light emanating from the lamp. However, Obe soon made another discovery: his new-found lamp casts long, shivering shadows of all things around him. As those obviously supernaturally produced shadows touch a certain object, they will interact with it, changing its very essence and transforming it in a way that will aid Obe in his journey.
For instance, at the very beginning of the game, Obe will find out that the river blocks his way. There are remains of some structure that look like it could’ve been a bridge a long time ago, but now it’s broken beyond all repair. As Obe desperately circles around an imposing pillar in the middle, his shadow rotates as it’s some sort of giant sundial, touching wrecked parts of a bridge. A few seconds later they are transformed into two rotating platforms that are activated when Obe approaches, thus allowing him to cross on the other side. This is the general idea behind most puzzles in the game: experiment with your light source, using the different angles and positions for better reach and see whether you’ll cause some sort reaction from the environment. However, it’s not always as easy as it seems at first. Further, into the game, the puzzles will become more complex, involving different switches, moving objects, pressure plates, multiple shadows that affect different objects, and more. It won’t take long before strange individuals will appear, drifting almost in a trance-like state across their carefully determined routes. With some skill, you’ll be able to manipulate them so that they can step on pressure plates and activate some mechanism which will enable you to continue, just like you would do with crow people in Monument Valley.
Although the puzzles themselves are carefully and precisely designed, with a lucidity which only becomes fully apparent once you solve them, the storyline is intentionally ambiguous, with an unsettling dreamlike quality. Visuals are excellent, constantly fluctuating between being precisely defined (especially when architecture is concerned) and purposely vague and suggestive, which immensely contributes to the nightmarish quality of the whole experience. The soundtrack is also outstanding and shares the very same qualities as its visual counterpart. There isn’t anything that could be described as a prevailing melody – instead, amorphous ambiental sounds will clash with bouts of more defined passages, often possessing a deeply unsettling eastern-like quality. For all those of you who had been wondering where you can try out Where Shadows Slumber, the game has been released for iOS devices and is currently in BETA phase for Android platform.
And the meaning of this whole nightmarish experience? Well, play the game and see for yourself. But, you’ll most likely find out that light and shadows can indeed coexist in one place: in the human mind and the human soul.