We are not welcome here
The game immediately warns about the topics that will be raised in it. Here and racism, and xenophobia, and violence with forced labor. There is also cruelty to animals: all the characters here are representatives of the fauna. Wolves, pigs, rats – “all animals are equal,” as posters and neon signs say. Everyone except birds: they are considered carriers of all kinds of infection and seek to either destroy or “remake”. Although some other animals in this universe clearly do not belong to the top of the social pyramid.
We control one of the birds, a crow, trying to change position and find a place for itself in this society. That is, the topics covered in White Shadows are much clearer than in the same Inside. If you didn’t like there that you have to think a lot, then here everything is more or less obvious: a dystopian state in which social inequality reigns, and a lonely hero facing injustice and a monstrous attitude towards him and his like.
White Shadows: Overview
The topic of propaganda, of course, also comes up.
Perhaps the parallels to the real world are sometimes too strong: the “Crows are guilty” poster, the “They deserve it” sign, the constant reminders that “Light is life” and the phrase “A good bird is a dead bird.” But such caricature seems appropriate – it does not turn the game into an unnecessarily depressing story, sometimes even offering to smile at the absurdity of what is happening.
The developers brilliantly convey the scale of the city, allowing the virtual operator to demonstrate over and over again how tiny our jackdaw is compared to everything else. A factory where production goes on non-stop, long pipes and wires, huge lines of the same outcasts as the protagonist … When you run past the rails, the authors start up huge trains that rush past the hero with a deafening sound – the contrast is brilliantly conveyed. In order to show many animated objects or creatures on the screen in some episodes, the creators did not release the game on older consoles – a small team would have to spend a lot of resources on optimization.
“And I’m so small…”
To the smallest detail
There are many moments in White Shadows that impress with the quality of detail, and it seems that every frame has been given great attention. How will the light from the spotlights of security drones fall, how far will the camera move during a long run from one corner to another, what music will turn on in a particular episode? The entire soundtrack consists of classic compositions – from the hackneyed Wagnerian “Ride of the Valkyries” to the unexpected “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” by Strauss. Together with the sound design, which makes each episode terribly atmospheric, it turns out almost a jeweler’s work, which never fizzles out in more than three hours.
In such episodes, the music is especially good.
The gameplay maintains interest just as well. Somewhere you need to solve a simple but interesting puzzle. Somewhere – to go through an obstacle course, during which you do not want to swear because of inconvenient controls, as is usually the case. Somewhere you will have to use the help of other creatures – another reason to remember Inside (here this episode takes much less time). There are a lot of cool ideas here, which you don’t expect at all from the debut project of an unknown studio. I will not give examples – I deliberately did not insert screenshots from the second half of the game into the article, so as not to spoil the impression.
You get used to the visual style quickly – at first it seems like posturing, an attempt to stand out, but over time, this game becomes impossible to imagine without it. The monochrome palette perfectly conveys the gloomy atmosphere, and neon signs with dubious slogans attract attention every time. Without bright colors, the environment does not become less detailed, and there are no problems with movement – you don’t even want to look for flaws.
The name is better than you can imagine.
It turns out a kind of oxymoron: black and white White Shadows is one of the most vivid impressions of recent months. A story with a clear message, beautiful visual design, luxurious music – classical compositions fit here like a glove. One could reproach the game for being similar to Inside, but much more is mixed here: something is taken from the masterpieces of Playdead, something from Oddworld, something from silent movies, plus our own ideas. The cocktail turned out wonderful – there’s nothing to complain about.
Pluses: a curious story on understandable and topical topics; lack of passing moments; varied gameplay, regularly pleasing with new ideas; excellent visual design, without which after passing the game it is difficult to imagine; wonderful soundtrack consisting of classical music.