White Shadows review (PS5)

Monokel’s White Shadows is a cinematic platformer that’s out now for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X and PC – forgoing the last console generation to deliver a gorgeous experience within the genre. We tested it on a PS5.

During Gamescom this year, the number of press releases and demos for new and upcoming games was so overwhelming that we only ended up playing a handful of them, but White Shadows was one of them. Its trailer instantly reminded us of cinematic platformers like Limbo, but it was visually way ahead of Playdead’s 2010 classic.

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The resemblance is easy to see though – White Shadows features a familiar monochrome color palette, zooms its camera in and out for a visual sense of scale and has you walking left and right as you progress and overcome puzzles and try to stay clear of danger. There are five chapters in the game after the intro/prologue, and completing White Shadows will only take about two hours – which was a bit of a letdown as the demo was (in hindsight) a relatively long experience.

Gameplay is most familiar stuff for games of this genre, with boxes to push and levers to pull, but a few subtle gameplay tweaks are introduced over the course of the story, which stars a raven girl and a variety of other animals that all seem to symbolize parts of our own human society – in a bit of a Orwellian twist. While your raven girl can initially only walk, later stages see you floating down with a little umbrella and eventually learning to fly, so it’s nice to see a bit of gameplay diversity despite a short runtime.

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White Shadows is certainly a sight to behold during those two hours though, with gorgeously detailed background that you get to appreciate thanks to some nice dramatic camera work. It makes you feel like a small character in a big world, especially when a ton of non-player characters start to appear on screen. Birds like you are at the bottom of the social ladder in this game, and in a bit of a dark touch you find out that baby birds are even used as fuel, to power batteries that bring light to the city.

A lot of the storytelling is visual in nature, and you can tell that the designers have a great deal of affinity towards cinematography. Paired with a story about social inequality and injustice, it makes for a compelling playthrough even when a lot of the puzzles are fairly generic in nature – though that is a common aspect of the cinematic platformer these days, it seems. Its brevity doesn’t help it, but fans of the cinematic platformer genre who have access to a next gen system will certainly want to give this one a go.

Score: 7.6/10

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