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PSP  header logo

Fading Shadows

For: PSP

Marble goodness

Product: Fading Shadows | Publisher: Ivolgamus | Developer: Ivolgamus | Format: PSP | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Fading Shadows PSP, thumbnail 1
Back in the good old days before computer games, TV and boardgames – before chess and that hoop with the stick that you pushed along, even – there was marbles. People were playing with marbles in ancient Egypt and Rome, in fact. Back to the present, however, and it's just not something you get to see too often, alas. Until now.

Admittedly, in this game's case the marbles are computer generated and can be pushed around inside ancient fantasy worlds held in your hand while sitting on the bus but, nonetheless, it's still good old fashioned marbles.

Fading Shadows, then, is an epic tale of a boy imprisoned by an evil villain hell-bent on conquering the Castle of Heaven. The boy is prophesied to have the purest of souls that must be sacrificed to breach the castle gates but that he will be saved by his clairvoyant sister – with a little help from your good self, of course.

She's sealed his soul in a teardrop, transformed it into an orb and now she must guide the orb into the Castle of Heaven using a magical beam of light. Are you still with us? Good. Essentially that leaves you rolling the marble around to get it to the end of each level; simple as that. The convoluted story does at least provide a decent backdrop to your orb-rolling duties and allows for some stunning scenes of castle ramparts, sweeping bridges over yawning gaps and elaborate fountains and statues.

Unlike other marble-based games, you don't directly control the orb. Instead, you use the magical beam of light coming down from the heavens as a sort of magnet that you can adjust the strength of. Pressing X narrows the beam of light and quickly draws your orb closer to you while widening it out weakens the attraction.

There's a good reason for weakening that control. The orb can be morphed into different materials and when in a wooden state your focused light beam can easily burn and destroy it. However, there are obvious advantages balancing this dynamic, such as the fact the orb will float in water when in a wooden state, which is rather useful for traversing the various fountains and streams you come across.
This logically means that in a metal state the beam can't burn the orb but neither can the latter float on water and will rust and be destroyed if in there for any more than a few seconds.

To morph your orb into either of these states requires you to roll over a marked panel. The default state of your orb is glass which neither floats, nor is able to sustain the narrow beam for long as it cracks and is destroyed. (At this point you might wonder why the sister couldn't have put his soul in something a bit more durable and versatile.)

With the three different states of marbledom at your disposal, various panels to manipulate and platforms to jump across (a feat you can only accomplish in metal mode), there are seemingly an endless number of head scratching puzzles in the game. Some 40 levels in the single-player option and they get bigger and more elaborate as they go on. The first six serve as a tutorial, taking you from simply rolling the orb towards the end-of-level door, through the different types of puzzle and how to use the light beam on its own, away from the orb, to bounce off mirrors and press buttons.

So, onto the controls and you'd hope that magnet-like control over a marble would be tightly honed to perfection but in practice it can be a little skittish. This means you can sometimes find yourself losing confidence when traversing complex paths.

Additionally, one glaring omission in Fading Shadows is a lack of a zoom button. It would be incredibly useful to get a closer look at the area you're in rather than straining your eyes from the skies above trying to make out platforms and pressure buttons.

But that's more or less it, criticism-wise. And despite the above, Fading Shadows has a lot going for it. The graphics and sound are generally excellent and the story clothes the game's simplicity in an atmosphere that allows you to fill in the details for yourself. And boosting an already chasm-deep solitary affair are ten multiplayer ad-hoc levels for two players to race each other in a speed run.

By far most astonishing, though, is the variety of gameplay crammed into the UMD. Combining heart-in-the-mouth platforming with chin-stroking mind puzzles, a healthy dose of exploration and collectable gems for increasing your number of lives, this is one of the best puzzle games available on the PSP. And, handily, it's also further proof that marble games deserve to be as popular as they were back in ancient times.
Fading Shadows
Reviewer photo
Kirsten Kearney | 14 March 2008
Despite some control issues, Fading Shadows is an exceptionally imaginative puzzle game that will offer a long-lasting challenge and plenty of fun marble-based exploration for any PSP owner
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