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Game Review | Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows – a journey of disappointment

13 February 2022 - 21:11 By Arielle Pieterse
Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows promised to be everything mentioned above but wrapped up in great graphics and a world that was as charming as the puzzles were challenging.
Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows promised to be everything mentioned above but wrapped up in great graphics and a world that was as charming as the puzzles were challenging.
Image: Supplied

From games like LIMBO to Trine to Little Nightmares, puzzle platformers have always held a special place in my heart, and no matter where I’m at in my life, I’ll always find myself returning to them when I want to sit on my own, unwind and play something. Now don’t get me wrong, I would never go as far as to call these types of games “relaxing”, but once you can muscle through the urge to break something and you finally get past the puzzle you’ve been stuck on, they are surprisingly satisfying.

Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows promised to be everything mentioned above but wrapped up in great graphics and a world that was as charming as the puzzles were challenging. However, the actuality of the game feels more akin to a students end year project than something that you should be paying money to experience. Also, once you actually start playing, the voice acting and character animation in Tandem: A Tale of Shadows can only be compared to how things were back in the days when PlayStation 1 was the peak of gaming.

Use the power of perspectives and shadows to solve puzzles in Tandem: A Tale of Shadows, as you take the role of Emma and her teddy bear Fenton to solve the mysterious disappearance of a boy in this creepy puzzle platformer.

The best way to talk about Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows is to break it into two sections: the story and the platforming/puzzles. First, let’s talk about the simple yet unsatisfyingly poor tale. As you play through Tandem: A Tale Shadows, you control two characters: Emma, a 10-year-old girl who wants to be a detective and Fenton, an animated teddy bear.

When Thomas Kane, the young son of an illusionist, goes missing, Emma and Fenton team up to investigate. That’s it, story done. If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, well, surely the story gets more fleshed out as the game progresses? Nope. Surely the ending answers many looming questions that the story presents? Nope. There is absolutely nothing more to the story of Tandem than what I’ve mentioned above.

Next up, we have to talk about what is essentially the crux of Tandem: A Tale of Shadows: the puzzles and the platforming. When I first heard about the core concept of Tandem: A Tale of Shadows, I was excited. While nothing they were selling was new, it was interesting. The big twist in Tandem: A Tale of Shadows, the thing that’s supposed to make the game stand out, is the concept of looking at the world around you differently.

While playing Emma, you have a top-down view of the world, and while playing Fenton, you’re greeted with a traditional side-scrolling view. The concept is novel and worked pretty well for the most part. However, lacking the intricacies of the platformers of today, such as a double jump, a long-jump or anything of the like, makes the experience feel somewhat hollow.

Each of the two characters have very basic actions they can perform. As Emma, you can pick up keys and use them to unlock things as well as use her lantern to create shadows, and as Fenton, you have the ability to jump and use shadows as if they were solid ground.
Each of the two characters have very basic actions they can perform. As Emma, you can pick up keys and use them to unlock things as well as use her lantern to create shadows, and as Fenton, you have the ability to jump and use shadows as if they were solid ground.
Image: Supplied

Each of the two characters have very basic actions they can perform. As Emma, you can pick up keys and use them to unlock things as well as use her lantern to create shadows, and as Fenton, you have the ability to jump and use shadows as if they were solid ground. The aim of the game is to constantly alternate between the two characters, using each of their unique perspectives to solve puzzles and progress through the game. While there is nothing wrong with this setup, the puzzles themselves never seem to grow in difficulty or complexity. If you can solve the first tutorial puzzle, you can solve all of the puzzles without so much as a thought.

Playing through Tandem: A Tale of Shadows had me constantly trying to figure out who the game was aimed at. I would never recommend it to those new to puzzle platformers as there are much better titles to start with; gamers who are already familiar with the genre will find both the puzzles and the platforming in Tandem: A Tale of Shadows nothing short of tedious and quite honestly, I can’t imagine a child playing or enjoying the game even though I feel like they are the most likely audience.


BOTTOM LINE
Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows attempts many different things and excels at none of them. While I don't believe that a platformer needs to have a story, I do think that if it does have one, the story needs to be good. In the case of Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows, the story adds nothing to the experience; instead, it makes what was at best an "okay" platforming experience nothing short of painful.

PROS
The core concept behind the game is pretty interesting and it makes me wish it was just better executed. Coming in at R150 on Steam, the game is pretty well priced, but I would still recommend only picking it up on sale.

CONS
A story that's weaker than me attempting to do a pushup and less self-aware
The graphics never feel consistent and jump between sometimes looking polished and other times looking like they come straight from a 90s asset catalogue
Very bare-boned and basic platforming capabilities, which we've collectively evolved beyond over the past few decades
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