Game: Tandem: A Tale of Shadows
Genre: Platformer, Puzzle
System: Steam (Windows) (also Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Monochrome Paris | Hatinh Interactive
Controller Support: Full
Price: US $17.49 | UK £13.99 | EU € 17,49
Release Date: October 21st, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Homerun PR
Halloween is fast approaching so now is a great time to sit down with a good horror game. But horror can come in many forms. In the video game realm, most horror style games tend to be more tailored to adult audiences. But with the right skills and creativity, it is possible to make a scary game that appeals to most audiences.
A very good example of this is films like Coraline or Paranorman. From the very talented studio Laika. Horror films that are suitable to watch with your kids or those that would just rather not go to sleep with nightmares. Tandem: A Tale of Shadows not only gets the horror vibes balanced for all audiences but it also ends up being a pretty great puzzle experience as well.
Start Them, Young
The game is set in a Victorian setting in a dark and gloomy mansion. You play as young Emma and her teddy bear Fenton who are on a quest to search for the missing magician, Thomas Kane. Emma may only be ten but she’s already well on her way to becoming the next Sherlock Holmes. She joins up with Fenton, a rather quirky teddy bear dropped from a runaway carriage that’s heading towards a creepy mansion.
While most ten year old’s wouldn’t think to head into the scary mansion, Emma and Fenton head straight on in giving little concern to what boogily wooglies might reside inside. It’s a simple plot that is presented in bitesize cutscenes between chapters. Emma and Fenton are instantly likeable and make quite the duo.
The goal of the game is to work together as Emma and Fenton in order to reach a crystal at the end of each level in order to progress. When you play as Emma you view the level from a top down perspective. Emma is able to walk and run about and push and pull objects in the environment. But her most unique tool is her lantern. Move round the environment and the lantern will cast a shadow which will actually help Fenton navigate through the level from his view.
When you switch to Fenton you will observe the level from a 2D perspective. Fenton is able to jump and interact with switches which will open doors for Emma. But in some instances will cause a noise to distract enemies’ temporally, allowing Emma safe passage. Fenton is able to walk across any shadow but if a shadow is cast directly onto Fenton he will be frozen in place until Emma shines a light on him. The two must work together to overcome the puzzles in each level which proves to be a very rewarding formula. Controls are simple to pick up and play and button prompts are presented regularly in the bottom right corner of the screen if you need a gentle reminder.
The game does an excellent job regularly introducing new mechanics to keep things fresh and interesting. On some levels you are trying to avoid creepy spiders, others you are using weird jelly monsters to chomp through a wall. The pace of the game is relatively chilled and for the most part, you can tackle the puzzles at a steady pace. But sometimes you are required to quickly switch between characters in order to avoid danger. There is also quite the memorable boss fight at the end of one chapter that requires you to sprint from a very large monster which may raise the stress levels.
The game doesn’t offer the player any in-game hints to solve puzzles. But it feels designed appropriately that with some light experimentation you can figure it out. Both Emma and Fenton can fall into hazards and die but they revive instantly at a nearby checkpoint. Emma, bless her heart, has some pretty horrible death scenes. One of which sees her get wrapped in a cocoon by a spider, the other getting literally chopped in half at the hip region. These deaths are free of any blood or gore and still remain suitable for most audiences in my opinion.
Attention to Detail
The graphics and sounds are incredibly detailed for an indie title. Before each level begins a loud and effective chime of a grandfather clock resonates as you are presented with the title of the level. When you play as Emma the world is in colour, but, when you switch to Fenton there world is more dark and grey and haunting. What stood out most of all is the level environments. There is some incredible attention to detail. On one level I had to just pause to appreciate a boiler room design. Sure that sounds pretty standard for a video game but in Tandem you have chains hanging from the ceiling, excellent use of shadows and there is just that eerie feeling you get walking through the darkness which is hard to create in a game setting.
But it’s not just boiler rooms, you’ll encounter all sorts of indoor and outdoor mansion settings all of which make excellent use of lighting and have several creepy characters such as spiders, Cthulhu like oil monsters and deadly soldiers. It’s not a mansion I’d like to visit in person but it sure was great to appreciate the art design, at least in game. Oddly in cutscenes, the quality of the graphics does take a slight dip, it didn’t take me out of the game experience but it just felt a little out of place.
Conclusion – A Tale Worth Playing
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is an entertaining puzzle game with a spooky theme that feels suitable for most gaming audiences. Emma and Fenton make a great gaming duo. Mixing top-down and 2D puzzle platformer makes for quite an engaging experience. If you’re looking for a suitable spooky action puzzler this Halloween (or any time of the year for that matter) then I highly recommend trying this game. You’re more likely to be highly entertained than have nightmares.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot