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Wonderful but sometimes tedius. , May 18, 2010
Shade is one of those games that is hard to discuss without spoilers. It's a one room game. The game includes your bathroom, kitchen, and apartment proper.
Now at first I thought it was going to be pretty boring, with the sparsely decorated apartment being done a million times before, but the writing is so great it really put me back in my days after college. The little details make the game come alive- the old 386 computer, the pile of papers that represent your life's work of writing that you don't even thing are worth looking through, the shower that isn't working...
Then we come to the game itself, which really rewards you for sticking with it. Your key to the game comes in the form of your to-do list, which changes as you accomplish things on it. (It might not change- just your focus seems to change). As you start mucking about your apartment, little subtle clues are given, though it might not seem relavent at the time- the game deserves a second playthrough.
Finally, the issue becomes distorted, as you realize (Spoiler - click to show) you are in a dream , as things start going awry in your apartment (Spoiler - click to show) as everything starts turning into sand . The writing gets excellent at this point, as you try to figure out what's going on, and finally the realization hits you.
It's definately a mind game, much like the movie Identity or Fight Club.
But the gameplay- it's not really puzzle based, it's go no NPCs to speak of. It's exploratory if anything. You're basically moving through the plot, which makes the game linear, and sometimes difficult, since you aren't always sure what you need to do next. There is no onboard hint system, except checking your to-do list, and that can be very vague at times. Still, you can't get permanently stuck, just frustrated as your key actions seem to be looking at and messing with the mundane issues in your apartment, such as the sink or shower.
This is the game's big shortfall, as the actions are arbitarty. Sometimes sitting on the futon triggers something, sometimes it doesn't. That can get pretty frustrating, but the positives of the game outweigh the negatives, if you're in to the mindscrew type games.
There is one part of the game (Spoiler - click to show) where the helicopter flies by that I wish was more interactive. Once you find out what's going on, it implies that (Spoiler - click to show) the helicoptor may represent your rescuers and it would be nice if you could signal the helicoptor for a different ending. That might wreck the appeal of the game, especially if you accidentially do it on the first playthrough, but it would be nice.