the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Of Light and Shadow

Of Light and Shadow

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, we look at a an odd pairing of individuals who share a common mission, but never at the same time.

Of Light and Shadow

Illuminating!

Genre: Luminescent Platformer
Link to Game: http://oflightandshadow.at/
Game Info: Developed by 12 Angry Devs from the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Austria and released online in April 2012; currently being up-voted on Steam Greenlight for potential distribution.

A cohesive presentation can add a lot to a game’s overall experience, even when a game is short. Clean stylized imagery, a pretty engine, smooth controls, and textural audio can help layer an otherwise one trick pony into a stallion if all used effectively, and when that occurs, one would think a commercial release wouldn’t be far behind. More often than not, freeware games are found being a bit rough around the edges, leaving gaps typically filled by commercial games to focus in on intriguing design concepts and mechanics. Of Light and Shadow, on the other hand, is considerably smooth from start to finish; of course that finish isn’t too far away.

Fun with photometry

Of Light and Shadow places the player in control of the two titular photonic states, typified by a pair of odd scientists. First up is Mr. Light; a bright (ha!) and youthful hero that runs and jumps across the screen. Following closely behind is Dr. Shadow, whose mechanical suit defies gravity allowing him to walk across all surfaces and toggle important switches. Each character has a weakness of course; being that neither can exist in the same space as the other; Light can only survive when inside lit up areas while Shadow is only safe outside of them. Like in many polarity-based games, the player must toggle between the two protagonists as they maneuver them through each of the game’s levels; playing out as a relatively safe platformer (it doesn’t really get too challenging) with a few puzzle-oriented twists.

Adding value to the game’s total package is its rather well developed art design. The introductory story is well relayed through cartoony science fiction, featuring black and white rounded stills that are a cut above the average freeware release. While the opening scenes appear to pit Light and Shadow against each other at first like two sides of a coin (and perhaps if circumstances were different, they would be their own antagonists), it soon becomes clear that they each are ultimately on the side of good. After all, both sides of a coin end up buying the same thing.

The level of polish continues into the levels themselves, where the game swiftly moves between light and shadow with ease, and with smooth animations abound. While it’s true that “bloom” isn’t exactly a game play concept, the game’s use of the Unity engine is top notch, allowing for some beautiful scenery to float by that is both vibrant and creative. Levels feature both natural and mechanical constructs, and some pieces straight out of 12 angry dev imaginations, like a giant kneeling frog with a halo inexplicably prominent in the background.

In context, this all makes a lot more sense… well, some more sense, at least

Perhaps the prettiest detail found within the environments is in watching both light and shadow (I mean the physical light and shadow, not the characters) actively cast onto level areas. Platforms don’t just float without any repercussions; a raised platform means the area underneath would be rendered into darkness. Likewise, an object moving past a light source will bring a shadow along with it to either dodge or adapt to. The way light and shadow move across the levels offers some creative challenges that will eventually build to situations where the player needs to actively toggle between the protagonists to keep from dissolving into their anti-states. The other Light and Shadow (the characters this time!) are nicely developed as well of course; each with fluid movements, and even some cute idle animations thrown in for good measure.

There’s a good deal of professionalism demonstrated by Of Light and Shadow. Introductory levels showcase the individual mechanics of each character, followed by a quick treadmill situation where the player is forced to make their first character switch, and the game takes off from there. The trouble is, once that happens, there’s really only a few more levels, and a final gauntlet sort of room, but difficulty never truly ramps up in any significant way, and is sadly over right when it starts to get rather interesting. Based on the current level setups, I would’ve also liked to see the window where one character can exist outside of their relative safe zones reduced, as I feel that the game is a bit too forgiving in this regard; always seeming to allow for a last second toggle to the other character. Even so, the game’s short length is enjoyable, and hopefully will be a sign for good things to come for this talented development team down the line.

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