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Hands-on with Shardlands
By Will Wilson 23 August 2012
Game Name: Shardlands | Developer: Breach Entertainment | Publisher: Breach Entertainment | Format: iPhone, iPad | Genre: Puzzle
Lighting is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of a video game.

It's one of the two key elements (along with sound) developers employ to create atmosphere and 'solidness' in their virtual world. Lighting generates depth on a screen without the need for a pseudo three-dimensional image.

Breach Entertainment's Shardlands seems to understand this. It may be a puzzle game at heart (with a few touches of stealth here and there), but its eerie lighting helps make the 3D world extremely striking.

Landing on your feet

The game's story is still under wraps, but it seems to revolve around your female astronaut finding herself in a dark and alien world, forced to collect strange light orbs left strewn around ancient ruins.

By collecting these spheres, you unlock further portals in the 'hub' area. These lead to more complicated and dangerous levels, filled with multi-stage puzzles and nasty, slimy aliens with a penchant for biting your face off.

While you may not be armed, you do have at your disposal various environmental 'weapons' with which to overcome the creatures. These range from fire traps (that can, naturally, burn you, too), to - oddly - the save points dotted around each stage.

You can't rely on these being near you when you come across a monster, though, so stealth is also a good solution - running past foes while their backs are turned, farther into the darkness.

Deeper underground

The main bulk of your time in Shardlands, however, appears to be spent solving puzzles by sliding platforms with your finger.

You move your character by tapping on the screen, rather than via the often clumsy virtual joystick method, so there's no issues with the game getting your intentions muddled up when you go to pull something closer.

You may start off simply creating a passage by dragging two pieces together, but latter stages I saw challenge you to combine the various elements of the gameplay into a cohesive whole.

In one puzzle, for instance, you're not only sliding platforms and edging across, but you're also timing your runs to avoid being fried.

Breach Entertainment has told me that it expects a complete playthrough of Shardlands to take around 3-4 hours. It is, however, planning to support the game after launch with plenty of new content, including a "hardcore" level pack with tougher stages.

We'll see if Shardlands can satisfy the hardcore mobile gamer when it launches on iOS in the autumn / fall.
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