White Shadows is a cinematic puzzle-platformer where you play as a little Ravengirl trying to escape a brutal dystopia founded on propaganda that puts her and her people at the bottom of its hierarchical social ladder. That sounds all good and dandy, but the overall execution of it leaves something to be desired.
This post-catastrophe monochrome world that is populated by humanoid animals is built upon a lie. While plastered all throughout you see these propaganda posters and messages that “All Animals Are Equal”, that is a lie. All animals are equal, but not birds. Everyone hates the birds as they were scapegoated by the wolves, who reign supreme in this world, as the cause of the plague which decimated the population even further after the catastrophe. It’s a bleak and shadowy world with an extremely oppressive and eerily atmospheric industrial punk aesthetic. It’s a dystopia alright. I really liked this aesthetic, although I would have liked it even more if it was more sharper and crispier. As you can see in the screenshots, which are in 4K, the game looks a tad too blurry.
As Ravengirl, you will have to find ways to avoid the teeth of machinery primed to grind her into dust, leap across rickety infrastructure that bridges the cavernous darkness all around and avoid the watchful eyes of guards ready to gun her down.
Sure, the ravens are the most hated and are industrially bred to be used as batteries to light up this world, but it’s not like the rest of the animals fare better. You will travel to the city’s brightest highs and delve to its darkest depths on her journey and well, every part of this world is well, crap. What I mean is that I didn’t really get to see the social divide, where the rest of the animals like the pigs or even the wolves, for example, live a luxurious life or in a better place than the castaways. It’s all the same, dark, cold, and steel in all four directions.
Now, maybe, that was the whole point of the game’s narrative and world design, but I didn’t really get all that while playing the game. And the ending left me completely puzzled as I didn’t really understand what happened. Was I the chosen one, and if yes why, and what did I truly achieve? Did I save my people or did I cast the entire world into an eternal shadow? Were the birds alone in this world or was there a "higher" helping hand?
I didn’t really understand what it all meant. I appreciate when games tackle social problems in unique and creative ways, but White Shadows I don’t know, maybe it was too high-level artsy-fartsy for my brain to truly understand. Having said that, there are a couple of really unique and creative sequences that you either play or just see in the background which will stay in my mind for a long time.
As for the gameplay, it’s just a simple 2.5D puzzle-platformer so you know, the usual stuff like moving left or right, climbing ladders, moving boxes to activate buttons, stealth around so you don't get caught, you have done all of it before, probably better, in other similar games. One thing in particular with White Shadow, that you might either love or hate, is the lack of handholding. Once you are in the world, there are no waypoints, no mission objectives, there’s no HUD and not even prompts for button presses, nothing. This was weird at first since you come across a lever you need to pull, but the first time you see it, you don’t really see it as it blends completely in the monochrome background. But once you understand the rules and how the game uses light, you will just swiftly move across the world and reach the end in around 3 hours.
White Shadows is an interesting experience, but that doesn’t automatically make it a good game. That, also, doesn’t make it a bad game. For me, it stands right there in the middle, in the neutral gray zone, whatever that means. You might enjoy it, you might not, I don’t really know. Maybe wait for a sale before giving it a try. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a review code provided by the publisher. White Shadows is now available on PC, Xbox and Playstation.