White Shadows, the review of a rawer and dirtier version of Limbo



The review of White Shadows, the 2D platformer by Monokel that could be called a more raw and dirty version of Limbo

2021 seems to be the year of the crows. After the excellent Death’s Door, which has found its deserved space on consoles, we disguise the role of the brave raven armed with a sword (or umbrella, or whatever you like) to wear those more tragic of a young protagonist running for her life, within a society that ostracizes and exploits the crows – in this case represented more as anthropomorphic animals.

White Shadows is the first work of the German studio Monokel in which, from the beginning, you can see traces of Limbo and / or Inside. From the artistic point of view is much more cured, enriched by movies and in general with a deep search for detail. Where it sins more is in the action, rather limited, and in the excessive hermeticity of the narrative: up to a certain point is understandable, with the pieces that fit slowly in their place, but in the final stages takes a drift that left us a little ‘puzzled.

Let’s find out more about Ravengirl’s adventures in our White Shadows review.

Narration

The atmosphere of White Shadows

As always, let’s start with the story. It is not easy to tell White Shadows, both because we do not want to get into spoilers and because, in fact, it is complicated to understand where he wants to go or what he means. What we know for sure is that we are completely immersed in a dystopia, a Metropolis mixed with Bioshock where exploitation and social control are the basis of the city where the escape of Ravengirl takes place.

After all, the developers say so before you start playing. White Shadows has scenes of racism, xenophobia, violence against women and children, in short, does not miss anything: we can confirm that these warnings are not blown, the game step by step becomes more raw and dirty, especially when we first are called to perform certain actions and deplorable.

In this context of degradation, we sense that crows in particular are ostracized as “carriers of disease”: the entire city is built to convey this message by exploiting the environmental narrative, with neon signs that continually refer to the fact that it is right to expel crows and use violence against them. Or, with obvious scenes of exploitation against them, through references that in some cases made us think of deportations and concentration camps during the Nazi period.

Developers don’t mince words with strong content. The point, however, is: what do they want to say? Because while I appreciated the environmental narrative, the care in reconstructing scenarios and characters who, despite their silence, can explain the context, there are some steps to really understand what happened and especially who is Ravengirl. As anticipated, the final lines are a bit rushed and do not help in closing the circle.

Gameplay

A Bridge of White Shadows

In terms of gameplay, White Shadows is very simple. The player is only required to move the character, duck where necessary, jump and occasionally interact with some objects: nothing else. A banality that would not be out of place (again, think Limbo and Inside) if it had been made more present. Progressing in the game we realized that the most common action is to move the character, as if we were in a walking simulator, while the puzzles or more platforming sections are contained: not reduced to the bone but not as present as we would expect.

On the one hand is complicit in the short duration of the game and the fact that uses that time mainly to tell and show scenarios undoubtedly valuable. Mind you, there are sections that we have very much appreciated, even a boss fight if you want to call it, but overall lacks a bit ‘of balance between the concrete action, challenging, and the simple transition from one point to another. The path is also very linear, lacking secret passages, shortcuts or even just secrets, detours that end with some wink, as usually happens in these games.

Putting together hermetic narrative and gameplay at times too linear, lacking a real challenge, White Shadow emerges as an experience finely crafted from the artistic point of view, on which it is really worth spending the right praise, but more scarce as regards the combination of narrative / gameplay. If you have already had experience with games where the hermeticity is the master, then you know that the delay in contextualization is (or should be) balanced by a progression that pushes the player to take that extra step. Simply put, if we are not satisfied at the level of history we can always find the push in an intriguing gameplay, able to tease our sense of challenge: White Shadows unfortunately does not dare, in this sense, keeping on the safe with sections that, although at times very interesting especially as staging, never engage enough. Subentra then the curiosity to understand where he wants to go to parry, exhorted once again by the setting, but arrived at the end if you get only a general perplexity.

Technical and artistic aspect

A scene from White Shadows

As written several times in previous paragraphs, White Shadows stands out particularly for its aesthetics, for the incredible care taken in the setting and the search for detail (the only ones who have no differences between them are the animals, or all the crows are equal, the pigs as well and so on). This is accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of classical music that accompanies the different moments, most of the time dark and tragic, the game. From the technical point of view we have not noticed glitches of any kind. No bugs only sporadic shots that, it was confirmed, will be resolved with a pre-launch update.

Comment

White Shadows is a good launching pad for Monokel, which proves to have remarkable qualities especially as far as the art is concerned. It does not hide the obvious inspirations to Limbo and Inside, which is a good thing, but on the other hand does not even try to evolve, deepen or do something different from what was presented by Playdead. The ploy of the sense of loss is never too abused, but it depends on how you choose to evolve once the player is launched into an adventure without the slightest context: the developers do not quite succeed in the enterprise, because if at the beginning the curiosity and the desire to explore drag the player, in the long run the lack of clarity and stimuli from the point of view of gameplay leaves withering involvement. You arrive at the conclusion driven one last time by the desire to understand how the story ends, but the hermetic nature of the narrative leaves you facing an ending not too convincing.

PRO

  • Artistically remarkable
  • Several inspirations can be noted
  • The care put into the details is fascinating
  • Rather meager gameplay
  • Narration all too inscrutable
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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