“Help Emma and Fenton solve the mystery of the disappearance of Thomas Kane!”, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows asks of you. But if you’re expecting to conduct an investigation, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
That’s because Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is in fact a puzzle game. And while the premise may lead you to believe it has a interesting story to unfold, it quickly takes a backseat to the action. For puzzle fans, though, it won’t be much of an issue; before long you’ll be thoroughly scratching your head as you try to work your way through its engaging conundrums.
Put in control of Emma and Fenton, you’re tasked with guiding them through five Victorian-inspired worlds. And of course, inside each of those five worlds are numerous levels filled with puzzles for you to solve. What sets Tandem: A Tale of Shadows apart from other puzzles games is that each of its two protagonists operate on a different plane. As Emma, the action is viewed from a top down perspective. Switch to Fenton, and you’ll find he moves along a 2D plane.
To further complicate matters, Fenton – who is a toy bear, by the way – can only move when he’s not engulfed in darkness. That means that Emma has to light the way for him. With the platforms he can safely stand on often placed far away from each other, Emma must also create walkways for him via shadows. Create a shadow that leads from one platform to another, and when you switch over to control Fenton, you’ll find you can walk on it.
As you can imagine then, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows’ puzzles mainly revolve around creating shadows to help Fenton while playing as Emma. Fenton, in turn, can then stand on buttons etc. which help Emma get to new areas, and so on and so forth. There are many more complications as well, such as creatures that will attack Emma on sight, locked doors, and inky pools that will dull Emma’s light until she can restore it to its former glory.
Each world has its own unique challenges for you to overcome, keeping the puzzles fairly fresh. The final level in each world could also be considered a kind of boss fight. Things can get particularly tricky at times though. Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is the type of game that could leave you scratching your head for half an hour or so on any given level before you have that ‘Eureka!’ moment.
If anything, it’s the presentation of Tandem: A Tale of Shadows that lets it down. The visuals are a bit scrappy, and the voice acting is pretty poor. Alongside the lack of a decent story to really get you invested in Emma and Fenton’s journey, some players might not see it through to the end. Like most puzzle games that revolve around specific mechanics, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows does eventually lose some of its early charm.
As long as you go into Tandem: A Tale of Shadows not expecting a riveting tale or a high level of polish, chances are you’ll have an enjoyable time with it. As puzzles games go, it doesn’t feel entirely original – Shady Part of Me offered a somewhat similar experience earlier in the year – but there’s enough here to keep those who like to put their thinking caps on entertained for a fair while.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows Review – GameSpew’s Score