shadows on the mirror

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Number of Ratings: 26
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

The game's writing really worked for me -- it described the scene vividly and with judicious use of metaphors. The NPC's diction felt appropriately mysterious and foreboding, and I thought that many of the details were well-chosen to paint a picture of a PC whose life combines the ordinary and the extraordinary in a plausible way.

The implementation was reasonably deep, though it could have been deeper for such a small environment. The same goes for the NPC; he seemed to have some very basic emotional modeling, but the game didn't provide verbs like THANK or APOLOGIZE to let me interact enough with that emotional state. Still, he was able to answer a generous set of topics, and I felt intrigued and tantalized by the answers he gave. At the end, though, I felt like I still hadn't really gotten the point, which I suppose is another way of reiterating that the game just didn't provide enough to feel satisfying. I guess the fact that I wanted a lot more of Shadows proves that what was there was a very good start.

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- Edo, March 24, 2021

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fine storytelling in a puzzle-light game, November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

All right, this review is very brief, as I don't have too much to say about this one that isn't favourable.

It was an interesting little game that I felt could benefit from a bit more information revealed about the back-story. On the plus side, I ended up replaying a number of times as a result, trying to glean all the information.

The game was not terribly difficult except for realising the word I had to use to examine a particular item on the NPC.

Author Encouragement:
What can I say? I really enjoyed this one. You should definitely feel encouraged to write more.

W: 4.5
The writing really drew me into this story, in spite of my not being a fan of character-interaction based IF. I spotted no obvious spelling or grammatical errors, which was a welcome change.

A: 3.5
Interesting and appealing, but as mentioned, this isn't really my type of IF. That being said, it was still very well done. Might be a 4 or 4.5 if I liked this sort of thing better.

B: 4
No bugs that I could spot. The only difficulty arose from not knowing the word to use to examine a particular item on the NPC.

E: 4
Pretty entertaining, the story-telling being its biggest strength. Very minimal, and no particularly complicated puzzles or anything.

WABE score: 8
This game may have benefited from being played after a few bad ones.

- HL, February 26, 2016

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A car ride, handcuffed to a man in a black suit. Primarily conversation, February 3, 2016

This is one of those games where winning is just one goal. A minimal walkthrough is fairly boring. A thorough playthrough is intriguing and fun.

You are in a car, handcuffed to a mysterious man in black. The vast majority of this one-room game is talking to the one NPC, using ASK (or A) and TELL (or T).

The one puzzle in this game is a bit unfair, as it depends on knowing what your character is capable of doing.

What this game does is sketch out a sense of a vast and frightening/interesting world.

I recommend it.

- Indigo9182, January 31, 2016

- zylla, June 7, 2015

- NJ (Ontario), February 1, 2015

- E.K., September 6, 2012

- Jizaboz (U.S.A.), June 4, 2012

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
YA supernatural romance, IF style, April 2, 2012
by EJ

When I was in high school, there was a certain type of young adult fantasy novel that I read quite a few of. These books always contained (a) Ordinary Teenaged Girls who also happened to have Awesome Supernatural Powers, possibly with an attendant Special Destiny, and (b) Brooding, Aloof Male Love Interests who were often on the opposite side of whatever the main conflict was, but who were, deep down, Really Nice Guys.

"Shadows on the Mirror" feels very much like an entry in that genre. The heroine's Awesome Powers are only hinted at, but are undeniably Awesome, and also Unique ("Are you... like me?" she asks the hero, Galen, at one point, to which he replies, "No one is like you."). There are also tantalizing hints of ways in which the world of the game is not quite like our own, references to things unfamiliar to the player that the characters seem to view as so ordinary as to warrant no explanation. This could easily become frustrating, but it's done sparingly enough that it remains simply intriguing. That said, at times the game feels like almost too small a fragment of a larger story, a teasing glimpse of something that deserves a novel-length exploration.

Make no mistake, though: the real focus of the game is the Brooding Love Interest and the heroine's interactions with him. This was never quite my cup of tea (I was in it more for the power-and-destiny bit), but it's done fairly well here; the heroine is well-characterized, and the love interest, while a bit more of an enigma, is at least interesting. There's the possibility for some playful, fun interactions, and while Galen is not exactly warm and outgoing, (Spoiler - click to show)once the necklace comes off he's not such an unbearable jerk that it's impossible to understand why the heroine likes him.

The gameplay mostly consists of talking to Galen about various topics; the mechanics of this were a little hit-or-miss. Most of the topics I thought to ask about were implemented, and often asking or telling about a term that came up in response to the previous topic resulted in a conversational flow that seemed logical and natural -- no easy feat in IF. On the other hand, with the way that certain conversational responses are "unlocked" by pursuing other lines of questioning, it was sometimes unclear when Galen really had nothing, or nothing more, to say about a subject, and when I simply needed to talk about something else for a while to unlock more information about that subject. The "topics" command was also less useful than one might hope -- it seemed to return four or five topics in random rotation, regardless of whether that topic had been exhausted or not, and sometimes would return "You can think of nothing to say to Galen" even when there were topics remaining to be discussed.

After playing once, I immediately restarted the game to see if I could get a different ending, but was quickly frustrated by the fact that I was unable to discuss topics I had discussed in the previous playthrough and I wasn't sure why or what I had to do to unlock them, and I couldn't tell if the game was progressing especially differently to the first time. I did get a different ending the second time through, but I couldn't quite figure out why I had. At that point I gave up on replaying to find other endings--kind of a shame, as I don't think I even saw the "best" one, but replaying the game had become more irritating and confusing than fun.

For all my complaints, the conversational system was pretty strong overall, and I did enjoy the game as a bit of nostalgic fun. However, I'm not sure it would hold the same appeal for anyone who has never been the particular sort of teenaged girl who reads that particular sort of fantasy novel.

- diddlescatter (US), February 2, 2011

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), December 10, 2010

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A perfect example of a great conversation-based game., July 2, 2010

Shadows on the mirror is a great example of a story-based conversation game, with a few little puzzles thrown in. This game does require a bit of fiddling with before you can work out how to break away from that "point A to point B' pattern. However, I found that fiddling to be very enjoyable. The prose isn't anything special, but it gets the job done in a nice, simplistic way with some humor thrown in. Some of the endings are also written quite beautifully and give the game a very surreal feel.

The PC is well-characterized and once you come in tune with her personality, figuring out he next step becomes a lot easier. As for Galen, I found him to be a rather interesting personage. He has that unapproachable-macho-but-really-sweet-inside vibe about him. Shadows on the mirror is a game with a dash of romance in it, so you should treat it as such. Flirt with Galen and act the way the PC would act if she liked a young man. If you really get stuck, you can always take a peek at the topics list provided in-game. Also, (Spoiler - click to show)examine everything, ask Galen about everything, and tell him about everything. Sometimes, very nonessential things turn out to be the key to the next step. Do things that you would no normally do in an IF. You can touch Galen, steal Galen's possessions, and if you get the timing right, even kiss him.

Once you get Galen on your side, you'll find that there is a wide array of endings to the game - some more romantic than others - outside the linear story progression. And if you really, really want to know how to get Galen on your side: (Spoiler - click to show)Take off that pesky necklace from around his neck. Things should develop a lot easier after that.

I love conversation games and I found this one to be a real treat. The atmosphere is perfect, the NPC is lovable, the PC is believable, and the storyline is interesting enough to keep you reading for more.

- Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle), February 15, 2010

- Lea, January 16, 2010

- Nusco (Bologna, Italy), December 5, 2009

- Peripheral, November 3, 2009

- GDL (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), September 5, 2009

- DallasBrianK (DFW Area), August 16, 2009

2 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
Nowhere to Go, No-one to Root for, and Nothing to Do, August 2, 2009
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

I swear that I don't understand some IF games, and this is one of them. After fiddling and fiddling with the game, I can't find anything to do. You're chained to some guy and you can't escape. In the end you're back home. What happens in between the two points is really just one long exercise in frustration.

The whole "Spend time talking to someone you hate" thing is not fun AT ALL. (Maybe the female gender loves this sort of thing for reasons I'd rather not psychoanalyze. Someone did add this game to a romance list. Yeah. That in itself is creepier than the entire game.) And it's a one-room game, so your claustrophobia is off the charts, but not in a creepy or terror-inducing way, but in a frustrating way. You might end up quitting the game out of boredom before the end comes, but if you hang around for it, there's nothing spectacular awaiting you. That's the ultimate insult.

The ending itself doesn't even seem that awful, so the entire point of the game is pointless. Not only that, but the big feature of the game -- conversation -- is implemented as standard ask/tell. No, there are no topics. No, there is no "Talk" verb. Argh! And if that wasn't enough, there are profanities included for your discomfort, reminding us that the PC is just as scuzzy as the NPC.

So to sum, there's nowhere to go, no-one to root for, and nothing to do.

- Anya Johanna DeNiro (Minnesota), July 6, 2009

- Emily Boegheim, April 25, 2008

- Ziixxxitria (California), January 27, 2008

- Emily Short, December 30, 2007

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