Platformers are a dime-a-dozen nowadays, especially at indie booths at events like PAX West. But every now and again a “simple” platformer blows your socks off. This year, that platformer was Projection: First Light. The Australian game developed by Shadowplay Studios and published by Blowfish studios takes one of the oldest forms of storytelling and turns it into a puzzle-platformer.
In Projection, you play as a mischevious little girl named Greta who lives in a mythological world of shadow puppets. Through the narrative, we help Greta explore different cultures and learn about legendary heroes, and we learn stories we may have never known before.
Each level is based on a story from a different country, this includes but is not limited to Oliver Twist, The Ramayana, and Journey to the West. Each level has a unique art style that brings the worlds of the stories to life while also immersing the player in the cultural art that surrounds those myths. When you play the game you will travel through Indonesia, China, Turkey, Greece, and 19th century England. With diverse members of the development team putting pieces of their cultures into the game, the storytelling is strong and the visuals will stop you in your tracks.
Not only is the imagery beautiful, but it is also accurate. The development team consulted renowned Australian shadow puppeteer Richard Bradshaw. Both performer and historian, his consultancy have helped the development team achieve a timelessness in its visuals and an authenticity to the stories being told.
Beyond cultural storytelling and attention to detail, it is the game-play mechanics that made this game stand out from the PAX Rising indie game showcase crowd and the other platformers that were everywhere at PAX West. Instead of jumping from platform to platform and navigating your way through side-scrolling puzzles, you make the platforms.
In Projection, almost every object casts a shadow and every shadow is your platform. While controlling Greta with on stick to move her forward, backward, and to jump, you also use your other stick to maneuver a ball of light which casts shadows around her.
This game asks it’s player to get creative in its puzzle solving. There are multiple ways to progress through each stage but to find each way you’ll have to be willing to move the light far away, close in, below, above, and learn the mechanics of the light and shadow itself. You will use the environment and your creativity to solve each step and move through a world that rewards you if you test things out first.
As a fan of platformers, being able to create my own, and manipulate the path in front of me adds a new level of immersion and difficulty that makes Projection a game I would play through more than once. The ability to solve problems in different ways means that watching someone play only teaches you so much. This game needs some hands-on play but this play brings unique experiences. Although I watched another convention-goer play through levels before I did, when I moved Greta, the path wasn’t dull.
Micheal Chu, founder of Shadowplay Studios had this to say about the game “The idea behind Projection: First Light went off like a lightbulb in my head when I recalled playing with shadows on a wall as a child.” With a simple concept that inspires a child-like wonder of the worlds that Greta moves through, this game tells a story. It moves the player while the player moves and creates a path through myths in the world.
The game is set to release early next year on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.