Tandem: A Tale of Shadows preview

We recently got to try out a build of Tandem: A Tale of Shadows, which comes out later this year. Here’s our look at this innovative puzzle adventure.

What we know

Due out on October 21st for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is being developed by Monochrome Paris and will be published by Hatinh Interactive. It mixes puzzle platforming with unique shadowplay as you switch between an overhead and a 2D perspective in a narrative-driven adventure.

The game features two protagonists, with the Alice-like Emma and her anthropomorphic teddy bear Fenton on a quest to find out what happened to Thomas Kane, a young boy who happens to be from a family of illusionists – which we think is a pretty big potential spoiler for the plot. The adventure takes place in Victorian times so Emma carries around a lantern to shed light on her environment, and the shadows she casts play an integral role in the gameplay as well.

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The way this works is that every shadow that Emma casts can be walked on by Fenton when you switch to his perspective – which is essentially a side-scrolling platformer. Imagine Fenton standing on a column, and if Emma gets next to that column she casts a shadow on the other side – this allows Fenton to walk across it to the next column or wall, and so on. Both characters can manipulate parts of their environment to help the other one along as well, so it’s very much a cooperative experience.

What we saw

There’s a demo out there for Tandem: A Tale of Shadow, but we were able to go hands on with a recent beta version of the game. Although an early build which lacked sound in cutscenes, the first two (out of five) game worlds were fully realized and we played through all of the included levels – an experience that clocked in at just under two hours and included us finding a few secrets in some of the levels by exploring.

What we thought

Although we’ve seen shadows as a mechanic before, and 2013’s Contrast immediately comes to mind, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is an original new take on the puzzle genre. Ultimately, the goal in each level is to get Fenton to a crystal that unlocks the next level, and we’ve already seen a few clever ways in which the shadow mechanic is used in order to achieve that.

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Most of the levels we played were fairly linear and straightforward though, where there was often just one obvious thing to try – or at least the direction of what you were going for was clear. This no doubt has a lot to do with the fact that we were playing the earlier parts of the game, and things already got more complex near the end of our playthrough. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if the developers will add things like multiple solutions and branching puzzles for the final game.

What also stands out is the audiovisual presentation, with an air of mystery that comes from the Victorian-era designs, Emma’s Alice-inspired wardrobe and the core narrative – though we haven’t been able to see much of the latter because (besides the intro) a lot of narrative elements hadn’t been implemented yet. The seamless switch between Emma lantern-lit overhead worlds and the shadowy world of Fenton is visually striking, and if developer Monochrome Paris can strike the right chord with the narrative this could be a puzzle adventure well worth undertaking. We’ll know more next month.

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