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Enter the world of shadow puppeteering as a young girl named Greta who can manipulate light to travel to far off lands. In Projection: First Light, experience a variety of cultures and embrace their artistic approaches to the practise as the mischievous Greta chases a butterfly into a Shadow Theatre where her world takes many new forms before her very eyes. We at Switchaboo have been looking forward to Projection: First Light ever since we interviewed Michael from Shadowplay Studios back at PAX AUS 2018, so let’s see if the game was worth the wait.

Gameplay

Your actions as the main character are limited by design, starting you off with a small jump with the A button and to pickup or push objects with X. After a short introduction, you’ll learn the ability to bend shadows to your will, which drastically opens up possibilities. Its unique hook is wonderful to make it stand out amongst the slew of indie 2D platformers out there and it certainly makes for plenty of interesting puzzles.

The shadows and Greta don’t always interact seamlessly with each other, leading to a handful of moments where I found myself either stuck inside the shadow I had created or even fallen straight through. Another challenge I found was that when creating a shadow, sometimes the camera would shift to follow Greta, resulting in your light pointer also shifting and therefore changing the angle of the shadow, ultimately undoing the action that you just did. This often made certain challenges difficult, especially when they required fine precision.

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It came as a shock when I attempted to play the game in handheld mode and you could not control the light source with the touchscreen. It’s by no means a deal-breaker as you’re required to use your right hand to jump and interact with objects anyways, but it’s a little disappointing that the Nintendo Switch port of Projection: First Light came with no extra thought in regards to what the hardware could do for it.

World / Level Design

Projection: First Light has a linear progression with each country Greta visits telling a unique story based on its cultural folklore. Whilst the challenges aren’t exactly “levels” per se, they all have challenging puzzles that require foresight and skill. Some of these areas are a lot less linear than others, requiring exploration, innovation and the ability to try new lighting angles, but you are often rewarded with Butterfly collectibles by doing so. Each country also provides new challenges based around their respective culture, such as the sky lanterns in China – it’s magnificent and adds to the game’s personality exponentially.

Story / Personality

The game features no dialogue but rather, the story is told through physical movements and exaggerated actions. Throughout each nation you visit, you’ll learn cultural traditions and mannerisms that are weaved well into the plot. Throughout your mysteriously ambiguous adventure, you’ll come across many puppet characters inspired by Indonesian, Chinese, Turkish, Greek and 19th century English culture. It peaks imagination and curiosity, allowing the player to learn a thing or two about each nation’s history in the process.

Graphics / Art Direction

The art style in Projection: First Light is absolutely phenomenal. It’s memorising; it’s charming; it’s captivating and all the while, educational. You can see the sticks holding up each puppet and their movements present a fine attention to detail.

The use of 3D depth is created wonderfully by utilising varying degrees of object positioning. By this, I mean that it replicates shadow puppeteering in that an object is bolder depending on how close they are to the sheet and the attention to detail that is implementing to replicate this is simply wonderful.

Music / Sound Design

A game such as this can often fall into the realm of stereotyping and yet, Projection: First Light masterfully (and respectfully) avoids this with beautiful arrangements that match the presentation wonderfully. The sound effects are also expertly implemented, adding a lot of character to each country’s environments and demonstrating that there is a lot to be said for a game that is willing to go that extra mile.

Final Score: 86%

Projection: First Light is wonderful, charming, captivating and wholesome, truly a wonderful edition for anyone who likes a good hook in their traditional 2D platforming adventures. The game is rich with culture and the story arcs are endearing with heartfelt moments aplenty. Its only letdown would be how fickle the shadow controls can be but once you build up a good rhythm, its genius will always be apparent.

Thank you for checking out our Projection: First Light switch review, thank you to Blowfish Studios for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:

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Posted by Alex Harding

Lover of chocolate and admirer of video games, Alex is the chief writer/editor of Switchaboo.