Game review: Shardlight is a throwback to a time when involving gameplay was king

The heroine of this puzzle game only wants to find a cure for what ails her but she ends up embroiled in a rebel conspiracy instead

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2016, 9:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2016, 9:39am


Wadjet Eye

4/5 stars

Many long-time gamers, the kind of old-school players who still take delight in revisiting classic releases, must be curious to know what modern players think of this nostalgic trend of indie retro games. Do they see it as some kind of sad, strange longing for the past, or a place where creativity thrives at its purest?

Whatever their opinions, it’s hard to deny that when you break a game down to its core, to its very essence beyond fancy graphics and ultra-realistic play, it all comes down to a story well told. Here’s PC game Shardlight to prove that point once again. It’s an old-fashioned point-and-click adventure that channels those innocent days of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, The Dig and other 2D LucasArts favourites.

Shardlight’s story is unique, but it feels like it belongs to that highly particular group, steeped as it is in adventure tropes. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the bombs have long dropped and which has recovered to a surprisingly decent rudimentary state; you take on the role of a mechanic looking to find a cure to her futuristic disease, but who gets caught up in a rebel conspiracy that slowly unfolds in classic sci-fi fashion.

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It’s eerie and mysterious, with a beautiful sense of design that gives it all a wonderfully worn look. But more than anything, Shardlight is a reminder of just how great this genre is for storytelling – each character, each setting feels perfectly timed, and as the story takes its many turns towards one of its three different endings, it never loses sight of its ultimate purpose: involving gameplay. Puzzles here run the range from very simple to incredibly creative, and all of them collectively come together in aid of the story.

Some might consider Shardlight to be a basic adventure game, and for those of us familiar with that once-thriving world, there admittedly isn’t anything too original here. But that’s almost what’s so great about it. It’s been a long time since anything dared to compete, and for all that new wave of players mentioned above, here’s a modern chance to explore one of the greatest ages of gaming.