Shade

by Andrew Plotkin profile

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Number of Reviews: 40
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3 of 3 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.


3 of 3 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.


3 of 3 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.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.


3 of 3 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.


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Good Story, Eh Execution, March 1, 2020

It's a unique experience, but the game is not very friendly. Help and Menu available on most IF's don't exist here (well, it does, but it's not helpful). Players are left to fend for themselves when verbs don't work. With the constant changing scenes, it isn't always completely intuitive what needs to happen next. Sometimes a player knows what to do, but doesn't hit the right word to make it happen, which leads to more frustration than anything. Great concept overshadowed by a frustrating lack of attention to the gameplay itself.


1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Innovative creative writing experiment. Boring interactive fiction., August 23, 2019

This isn't anything you haven't read in a college student's creative writing workshop. Or a no budget student film. The game itself is considered innovative. But there really isn't much to talk about. In general I'm not a fan of this kind of game. It leaves me going, "Huh. Okay." The author himself admits that he rushed to get it to a competition.

Often showing up in top 20 game lists. Frankly, I believe this is due to accessibility, and little to do with the quality of the title. Yes, you don't have to bang your head against this one for long to beat it, but are you left feeling fulfilled? I wasn't. Still, there isn't anything objectively bad about the title. Even if I consider it overrated. It's just not to my taste.


2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A one room vignette, September 2, 2018
by f-a

As other reviewers stated, very difficult to talk about this game without spoiling anything. I will say it is an interesting experiment, puzzles were mostly boring/uninteresting and drags a bit too long for my taste.

Play it with ~1h to kill and an open mind. If you get stuck, just read a transcript.


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Very good game. Clever!, March 15, 2018

Don't want to spoil anything, but don't let the "one room" keep you from playing this charming game. Puzzles were great, imagery was spot on.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Unusual with a compelling, well-paced narrative, March 15, 2018

When it said one room, my expectations weren't high; they were surpassed in spades. I loved almost everything about this. The descriptions were great with some subtle humour thrown in, without being tiringly verbose. Most things gave a response, and generally a very good one, (though there were a few situations where half a dozen things are mentioned and weren't understood - could easily be tightened up, but didn't detract).
The problems aren't challenging and normally that would put me off but the unusual nature of this game and the beautiful, well paced unfolding of the narrative was compelling so that, as with all well-crafted fiction, I couldn't put it down.
I would reccommend spending a pleasant hour or two with an ice-cold beer/water, feet up on the sofa, music/radio playing gently in the background and lose yourself in this great little adventure!
I certainly did.



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