Do I Really Have To Face My Fears?
HIGH That art style.
LOW Man, I’m too dumb when it comes to puzzle games.
WTF Wait, why am I crying?
Kids see the world in interesting ways. They’re honest in their feelings, and curious about the workings of the world. Shady Part of Me, the debut title from French developers Douze Dixièmes, takes this childhood precociousness and wraps it in a visually-striking puzzle platformer.
Players control a young girl living in what appears to be an orphanage. She’s controlled in 3D space and able to move objects around her. Joining her is the shadowy figure of a young girl, controlled on a side-scrolling 2D plane. The two girls must help each other as they uncover secrets in the ever-evolving environment they inhabit.
Gameplay revolves around switching between both characters and solving environmental puzzles, and every action taken by one character can affect the other. For example, the shadow girl requires light and some sort of platform below her to continue moving. The girl inhabiting the 3D space might have to move a crate to a pressure-sensitive button on the floor to shine a light on the wall, allowing her flat friend to move.
Shady Part of Me‘s puzzles are some of the most devious and smartly designed I’ve played recently. Constantly switching between two different gameplay styles while messing around with perspective never got old, even if I was stumped on a few. However, any sense of dread when trying to figure out how to advance quickly turned into a sigh of relief and a great feeling of accomplishment when a solution was found.
Aside from rearranging elements in each level to advance, players also have to contend with light and darkness. In the 3D sections, the young girl seems fearful of the light. She can’t step into it and will freeze in her tracks if she gets caught, but the 2D girl needs the light to continue moving. Trying to figure out the best way to balance these two qualities is a unique feat.
While I loved the gameplay despite the occasional frustration, what really stands out in Shady Part of Me is the style and atmosphere. Seemingly inspired by the likes of Tim Burton or even Charles Ogden’s Edgar & Ellen books, the striking black-and-white imagery and twisted art direction makes every screen a joy to look at. I loved the variety of environments as I traversed areas reminiscent of Egyptian deserts, and playrooms in which toys appear larger-than-life. The occasional bit of narration popping up in the environments were also a nice touch — it’s almost as if the game was writing the dialogue on a typewriter in real-time.
Visuals and puzzle design aside, the real hook for me was the storytelling. As mentioned earlier, kids see and experience the world in their own way, and I never thought a puzzle-platformer would make me re-examine things I was afraid of as a child, nor the anxieties I feel as an adult. Tackling themes like loneliness and the bitterness of growing up before conquering each one was like facing a childhood fear. While Shady Part of Me isn’t explicitly a horror experience, there were definitely feelings of unease throughout most of it that I appreciated.
Shady Part of Me is a bold and challenging title that uses style and story to complement its gameplay, and I walked away from this adventure reflecting on my own fears. If nothing else, it’s noteworthy for that.
Disclosures: This game is published by Focus Home Entertainment and developed by Douze Dixièmes. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated E. There is no combat, inappropriate language or excessive violence here. It’s pretty safe for young kids, with the gameplay revolving around solving puzzles.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is subtitled, though they cannot be resized. There are no audio cues needed for gameplay. This title is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.