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December 2023

Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Hatinh Interactive
Developer: Monochrome
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Tandem: A Tale of Shadows'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 14, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows is a dreamlike puzzle platformer with action and adventure elements that offers a unique dual gameplay experience.

Tandem: A Tale of Shadows starts off quite strikingly. It's set in 19th century London in a world that's just this side of normal but dripping with it has a Tim Burton-esque spooky sensibilities. Players control Emma, a young girl who makes it her duty to find and rescue a boy named Thomas, who the rest of the world has given up on. She's joined by her fuzzy teddy bear, Fenton, who seems to be more than just a regular toy. Together, the two explore the mansion that belongs to Thomas's family and find a way to bring the boy home.

The premise behind Tandem is quite neat. You control two characters: Emma and her teddy bear Fenton. Emma is controlled entirely from an overhead perspective in the real world, while Fenton exists in a 2D world of shadows. The two words are connected, and the shadows in Fenton's world are influenced by Emma's actions. If she can create deep enough shadows by manipulating light sources, Fenton can walk across them to reach hidden objects and switches that open new paths for Emma. You can swap between the two at the touch of a button but only when both are on solid ground. Your goal in most stages is to guide Fenton to a glowing crystal, which looks simple enough on the surface.

Things don't remain simple. While we only got a taste of the first few levels, it was enough to realize that the game has a lot of tricks to throw at players. Learning how to properly manipulate shadows is key to success, and it gets gradually more complex. Early on, Emma has a powerful lamp that lets her create shadow bridges by finding a convenient wall to hide behind before swapping to Fenton. Once the lamp runs out of juice, you're forced to figure out which items in the environment you can manipulate to create strong enough shadows for Fenton to walk on. Eventually, Fenton can stand on switches that manipulate parts of the "real" world, shutting off traps or opening doors for Emma to go through. There seem to be some things that only Emma can do, such as collecting keys to open locked gates.

There is danger for both sides of the duo. Fenton is unable to move if he's in a deep enough shadow, but he's also at risk from thorns and spikes that appear only in his perspective. On the other hand, Emma must be careful of floor traps and wandering enemies. One stage in our demo featured some nasty spiders that wandered along certain paths. If you get into their line of sight, they scurry after Emma and devour her whole. This required stealthy sneaking while making sure to move objects enough for Fenton to advance.

Tandem: A Tale of Shadows might have only given us a bite-sized taste of its gameplay, but what we saw showed a lot of potential. The interplay between light and shadow is a cool concept, and the constantly shifting perspectives make you think about your next move. There was a brief sizzle reel at the end, which shows that the simple pushing of carts and avoiding spiders will eventually scale to giant machines, laser blasts, and lands that look like something out of a storybook. I look forward to seeing what Tandem is hiding in its shadows when it hits later this year for PC and all systems.

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