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International Business Times

The solid, algorithmic world of standard text-based games is turned into something more wobbly; after enough weirdness it starts to feel like anything could happen in Shade and that drums up the scare factor.

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I cannot, without revealing entirely too much about this game, explain to you just what it was that had me raving about this game for two days afterwards, including randomly piping up with a particular rant that would, again, spoil things. Let me just assure you that this is the case: for two days, I was so haunted by this game that it was constantly in my head, teasing me... waiting for me in the darkness. In the shadows.

In the Shade.

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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

Quite simply, it blew me away. Not only that, it's one of those games that I wanted to restart right after I'd finished, just to try different things. When I did this, even more details came together in my head. Even now, little pieces are snapping together in my mind, and I'm getting flashes of realization about the meanings behind the meanings of so many of the game's elements. Few parts of the IF experience are as startling or as pleasurable.

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- rowan.du, April 30, 2022

- JohnK, April 12, 2022

- The Dalek, March 5, 2022

- beeeeeebop (Colorado, USA), February 22, 2022

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A hard one to review, February 19, 2022

It's clear from looking through these reviews that this is a rather divisive game. Praised greatly by most - including the "editorial reviews" (which always seem especially weighty from their prominence in games' entry pages) - there's a significant minority of reviewers who don't like it, including one or two who really hate it. A smaller minority sit somewhere in the middle, liking it well enough, but not greatly so.

I find myself in that last group. I certainly don't dislike the game. But if it hadn't appeared on almost every "must-play" list, and if it weren't by a renowned author of IF, and if it didn't have all those glowing testimonials, and if it were just an obscure game I'd happened upon by chance, I wouldn't think it anything exceptional. Of course it's hard to say - perhaps under those circumstances I'd be more impressed by it. After all, when something is praised this much, it has a high expectation to live up to. And besides, when you're told repeatedly that something is deeply creepy and you can expect an experience of terrifying psychological horror, little short of being trapped in a vault with Edgar Allan Poe is going to impress.

So all that said, I thought it was a good game. It's a good idea well implemented. The writing is excellent. I liked "A broad mirror tries to make the place seem twice its size; it halfway works" - very droll. The implementation is mostly good - as others have noted, the idea of having sub-locations within the single location is effective. There were some oversights though - "go to kitchen", for example, doesn't work (you need to "go into kitchen" or "enter kitchen"). (Spoiler - click to show)Also, there's no "shower drain" object at all to interact with, even though it's specifically mentioned in the to-do list. I don't have a problem with the fact that the game railroads you through its narrative - that's not the kind of game I mostly enjoy, but it can still be effective, and once I'd worked out how to progress, I rather liked almost sitting back and allowing the narrative to take its course.

I don't think I experienced the creepy psychological horror that others report. Either I'm deficient in something or being so prepared for it immunised me. So the actual activity of playing it, while fine, wasn't the deep emotional experience that others clearly find it to be. But at the same time, I suspect that the imagery of this game will prove memorable. And even in a game where the player has very little choice, making these happen *to the player* rather than to a character in a conventional story over whom one has no control at all does add to their power.

So that's my small contribution to the mountain of commentary on this game. It's very short, it's straightforward to play, it's memorable. I wouldn't call it greater than plenty of less celebrated works that I've played. But perhaps to some extent it's a victim of its own success.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One room, almost perfectly realized, February 2, 2022
by tobiasvl (Norway)

This is a very short and enclosed game, without a clear goal at first. After a bit of milling around, you'll realize how to progress through the game as you start receiving tasks to do; this worked very well, even with the later complications that crop up.

After a while, the tasks get stranger and more specific, and as this happened, I ended up progressing by trial and error. For such a compact and otherwise well-realized game, it's strange that it doesn't respond to the specific items/tasks on your list, and so it veers a bit much into "guess the verb around the general vicinity of items referred to in the tasks" territory for me. (For example, when I was asked to (Spoiler - click to show)"unclog the shower drain", the way I eventually managed to trigger that step was with "take shower", and I also had major problems with removing the package from the kitchen storage.)

I realize this review is mostly criticism, but despite that, the game works almost all of the time. The story is interesting and vague, and although I felt it became a bit too silly by the end, it's a very good example of a creeping feeling of dread that really only IF can give you.

- cgasquid (west of house), January 31, 2022

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A good but potentially frustrating short story, January 28, 2022
by Cody Gaisser (Florence, Alabama, United States of America, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Known Universe, ???)

I don't know that I have much to add that hasn't been said before about Shade:

*It's more of an interactive short story than an adventure game.
*It's reminiscent of The Twilight Zone.
*It's generally well written.
*Your mileage may vary with the ending.
*It's sometimes hard to tell what you're expected to do next, even when you're holding a checklist.
*(Spoiler - click to show)SAND!!!

Essentially it's good and worth the short time it takes to play, but also potentially frustrating depending on what you expect from interactive fiction/text adventures.

- bkirwi, December 25, 2021

- Cryptic Puffin, December 10, 2021

- thiefnessman (Massachusetts), November 30, 2021

- NorkaBoid (Ohio, USA), November 14, 2021

Tight, well-crafted piece of short IF, November 8, 2021

by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

Playing through Shade felt like reading a finely-crafted short story. The game environment is small, though precisely described so that each detail is striking and rich with information -- nothing extraneous. The work is focused in on a particular theme, and develops this theme deliberately and effectively. The imagery is evocative, though narrowly centering on a particular motif (Spoiler - click to show)(sand! and more sand!!). Like the best works of short fiction, Shade can be experienced in a relatively brief session, though it leaves a powerful impression that stays in the reader's head long afterward.

Shade presents a strange, disquieting kernel that the reader can contemplate beyond the bounds of the text itself. I won't delve into the content of that kernel in this review since, as mentioned, the work is easy enough to engage with quickly and a new reader does really benefit from going into the work with minimal foreknowledge.

While I absolutely loved the work, I had some minor issues with the mechanics of how a reader progresses through the narrative. It seems as though there's essentially one narrative trajectory through the game, with the player progressing as they accomplish tasks in preparation for an upcoming trip. None of these tasks are particularly difficult to figure out, and at it's best, the progression of the narrative felt like it was happening all of its own accord (Spoiler - click to show)with more and more sand filling the apartment, and the environment slowly transforming into a desert hell-scape.

However, there were a couple times when I got stuck looking for just the right object in the environment that I needed to interact with in just the right way to keep the narrative moving. These times took me out of the otherwise absolutely engrossing experience of the game.

- Prosilire (New York City), August 3, 2021

- Megg, July 6, 2021

- Hypercubed, June 18, 2021

- Malasana, June 12, 2021

- windchaser, April 28, 2021

- sw3dish, April 23, 2021

- Karlok (Netherlands), April 14, 2021

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
mesmerising, surreal horror that doesn't overstay its welcome, March 13, 2021

one of my favourite short IF pieces. despite (or perhaps because of) its relatively short length, plotkin manages to create a vividly realised setting that absorbs the player and doesn't let go.

the game's central plot mechanic makes it very hard to discuss what makes it so effective, but here's some of my spoilery thoughts for those who've already played it:

(Spoiler - click to show)i found myself reaching a point where i knew exactly what was going to happen whenever i interacted with another object. knowing that any actions i took would just make it worse, but also knowing that i had to take actions to advance the plot, created a beautiful tension that toys with the idea of agency in IF. it's a simple choice, but within IF, (a medium entirely based on player input) it's pretty genius to tie the worsening of the fear in a horror game directly to the player's own actions like that.

also, it helps that the pacing is just slow enough for the player to wallow in that dread, but never quick enough to diminish its impact.

the prose is evocative but suitably sparse given the game's subtle, psychological approach to horror. and the decision not to flesh out the protagonist's character really helps to place yourself into the setting.

overall, this game is a wonderful way to spend an evening if you enjoy a slow-burn linear experience that holds your attention plot-wise but doesn't demand too much of anything puzzle-wise. perhaps it wears its heart too much on its sleeve to merit replays, but i'd argue a game like this sticks with you enough that replays aren't strictly necessary.

- knockupwood, February 12, 2021

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