Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 1/29/21
A young girl wakes up from a dream and follows a black cat to an abandoned theater. There, she discovers a magic book that allows her to control her shadow-self, which is the key to solving the mysteries that lie before her. It's a gorgeous game, and the monochromatic artwork is stunning to behold. Unfortunately, the aesthetic is the game's greatest strength, as everything else falls a bit short.
Puzzle games are always tricky to review, because not everyone perceives and analyzes things in the same way. About half of the puzzles were to my liking, while the other half were either too hard or completely impenetrable. When a Rubik's Cube type puzzle appeared, I said "hell, no!" and immediately looked up the solution online (which ironically ended up being wrong, so I had to solve it on my own anyway). Other puzzles were often solved by just randomly doing stuff until something happened, without having a clue about what the actual solution was. Curiously, the game offers an option to show hints, but I never once saw a hint or a way to access one, so that feature obviously doesn't work.
The story is also a complete mystery, and everyone will have their own interpretation. Some people will get it and others won't. I definitely fell into the latter camp. The game has lots of recurring imagery including dolls, puppets, chairs, cats, bats, eyes, paper silhouettes, and carnival attractions, but they don't seem to relate to anything. Death seems to be a strong underlying theme, and a mother/grandmother figure is a central character. But is she malevolent or benign? Light and dark probably play into it as well - what is truth and what is fantasy? The ambiguous and somewhat horrific ending leaves you with more questions than answers, which left my initial conclusions completely invalidated.
It's also a very short game, assuming you don't get stuck on too many of the puzzles. A first pass will probably take 3-5 hours, and the only reasons to replay it are to chase trophies or analyze the symbolism and sparse story elements. Given the amount of gameplay, the price tag is a bit steep, which makes it hard to justify purchasing it. I also noticed a handful of bugs where the main character would be rendered in the wrong place and awkwardly float in space for a while. The lack of any camera control is annoying and robs the player from fully appreciating the compelling environment and stylish graphic design. Overall, it's a somewhat fun, but occasionally frustrating diversion for a couple of hours.