The Victorian era is renowned for its world-famous detectives, thanks to the escapades of Sherlock Holmes. However, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows uses a more understated protagonist to lead its story. It’s a dark and creepy Tim Burton-inspired puzzler that’ll make you think outside of the box.
Developed by Monochrome Paris and Hatinh Interactive, this is a perspective-bending puzzle title. Set in Victorian London, this whimsical and cute story has a dark, deceptive edge. Subsequently, you will fall for the charms of the characters while shuddering at the ominous atmosphere.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is unusual, but not unique.
I’m going to open by admitting my love for Tandem: A Tale of Shadows. I unashamedly adored every moment and played it as a man possessed. However, it wasn’t because of a new and unique take on the genre. No, quite the opposite, in fact. It uses many tried and tested mechanics within its puzzling world, and this makes it very familiar.
I fell for its charms because of the simple puzzles and wonderful solutions. Therefore, it’s a user-friendly title that doesn’t demand a super logical mind or a high degree of intelligence. Its perspective manipulation and use of light and shadow are commonplace in the puzzle genre, and IRIS FALL and Projection: First Light uses a similar approach. However, this stands out because of the use of two characters and the requirement to work together.
An interesting story, but who are the lead characters?
The game revolves around the mysterious disappearance of magician Thomas Kane. The police have searched high and low and the case has run cold. All hope is lost until a ten-year-old girl called Emma takes on the case. She runs towards the Kane mansion where a horse-drawn carriage rumbles past her. An animated bear tumbles from the window and Emma and Fenton (the bear) chase the carriage to the open gates of the mansion.
The opening gambit gives the impression that the relationship between Emma and Fenton will flourish and evolve. Sadly, though, this was never to be and you won’t discover any further details. This was disappointing, as there were plenty of opportunities, but the developers didn’t capitalise on them.
Seeing the world through fresh eyes.
Emma and Fenton both wish to explore the mansion for different reasons, but they must work together to achieve their goals. Emma moves through each of the five worlds armed with a lantern. The light this emits casts shadows that create paths for Fenton to traverse. Ramps must be created to allow the bear to bridge gaps and avoid spikes and other traps. Between them, they must activate switches and buttons, and move towards a crystal shard to end each stage.
None of the problems were overly challenging, yet they were moreish and cleverly created. The level design guided you nicely through each problem and no matter how extravagant things seem, I was never overwhelmed. What was equally brilliant was the stage-specific mechanics. Valves must be released to create new paths, oil extinguishes your lantern, spider webs will slow you down, and more. Simply running around each stage won’t suffice, and you must be aware of the obstacles, traps, and how the light and shadow create new pathways.
I loved how flitting between Emma and Fenton changed the stage perspective and forced you to look with fresh eyes. Minor details could easily be missed, only for them to be found when you controlled the other character. This was excellent and brought a smile to my face when I eventually found the solution.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows looks great but has dated cinematic.
The aforementioned lack of a relationship between each character could be linked to the woefully dated cinematic. A lack of animation and wooden acting remind you of early console titles. It was truly disappointing and undermines an otherwise brilliant looking game. Tandem: A Tale of Shadows treats you to a wonderful but eerie spectacle. The rich, yet dark, grimy environments lean towards a Tim Burton world. Its creepy undertones are uncomfortable but work wonders with the strange surreal theme. If the developers had worked on the cinematic, this would have been an exceptional game that would have stood out against its peers.
The “what ifs” and “should have been” continue within the audio. The awfully wooden acting is topped off by Emma’s slow and bizarre accent. The majority of the script is poorly pronounced, and this undoes much of the good work. Moreover, the acting was so bad it made me laugh repeatedly. Fortunately, though, the fun soundtrack with its whimsical tunes captures the dreamy magic of the story. I enjoyed the music and the sound effects, it’s just a shame the acting was terrible.
A nice UI smooths out the learning curve.
Though light manipulation and shadows are not revolutionary, they can be a handful to master. Fortunately, the wonderful UI smooths out the learning curve. Taking a minimalist approach, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows display lacks clutter, and this makes it great to look at. Moreover, changing between characters is easy and the controls are responsive. Subsequently, this is simple to pick up and straightforward to master.
It’s easy for a puzzle title to either be too linear and lacking replay value, or be too complex and overwhelm you. Luckily, however, with a few hidden secrets to discover, this is perfectly balanced. The achievement list is modest, but it will keep you playing until you uncover the mystery of the mansion.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows could have been exceptional.
Creating a deep and meaningful puzzle title is easier said than done. Tandem: A Tale of Shadows ticks many boxes, but its shortcomings undermine its potential. Had the developers explored the relationship between the protagonists and improved the cinematic, this would have been exceptional. Still, I enjoyed it and recommend you to buy it here! Can a ten-year-old solve the mystery, or will Thomas Kane never be seen again?