Tandem: A Tale of Shadow’s beautifully rendered intro anchors an old-fashioned puzzle/adventure story that reveals unimaginable truths after a shocking mystery. Identifying more to titles like “Little Nightmares” than to traditional puzzle games, it’s a very impressive mood generator, the kind that wants you to be unsettled from its very beginning all the way to the end. And for the most part, it gets the job done.
You play as Emma who has been struck with the urgency of exploration and it’s the kind of exploration that comes with a side of wonder as she explores the dark seedy streets of London along with her teddy bear, Fenton, in a journey of light and shadows to locate the whereabouts of a missing magician, Thomas Kane.
A dream-like environment is the key aesthetic choice here but creating this kind of sensory assault and not getting lost in the noise is much harder than it looks, and it is one of Tandem’s top accomplishments.
Emma is played from a top-down perspective and moves about in a world of color and familiarity. Fenton is regulated to the platforming darkness and can only move about where shadows exist. The dichotomy of such extremes works well between the two as there is a give-and-take approach to the gameplay: the light Emma uses to explore her surroundings becomes the shadow Fenton can walk on to complete the level.
The title never loses the characters in the action like so many other similar games tend to do. While Tandem can often feel like a rollercoaster with squeaking brakes, it’s actually a very well-calibrated action adventure with bursts of humor.
In terms of creativity, it’s the best one yet from developer Monochrome Paris as they precisely slide the camera through the increasingly discomfiting life of a little girl who is learning that things seen aren’t always how they appear. With top-notch sound design and graphics that contrast the brightness of white and the solitude of night, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is a game that puzzle/adventure fans need to experience.
I’ll have a full review of the game once it is officially released.