Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows by Monochrome Paris and Hatinh Interactive is the tale of Emma and the teddy bear Fenton who rush out in the middle of the night to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the famous magician Thomas Kane. Finding themselves in a manor with locked doors and terrifying traps (I hate spiders), the two will have to come together in tandem in order to pass through these obstacles while affecting both the real world and the world that lies in shadow.
Getting perhaps the one complaint that I have out of the way first, I wish that there had been more narrative to this tale as it starts off with such promise of an introductory cutscene before even making it to the main menu to tell you who’s who and what’s going on. From here though, you’ll only be going through various stages one after another with gameplay acting as your “narrative” guide as to what is happening on this adventure as there’s no narrator and both of your protagonists stay silent throughout.
Otherwise, the gameplay is perhaps one of the better ones that I’ve seen of this already hard to pull off style. A bit like my last review of last year with Shady Part of Me, both Emma and Fenton have to use one after the other in order to manipulate both worlds in order to move on to solve the mystery of the missing famous magician Thomas Kane. Unlike the previous experience which was set about in long stages with various narrative elements though, Tandem is all about short bursts of action presented as nodes on a form of world map.
Switching between Emma and Fenton is easy enough in concept however there’s a bit of a cognitive switch that will also have to be done and I’m not ashamed to say that I stayed stumped a few times because I wasn’t thinking in terms of planes of existence properly. While exploring to find our missing magician, Emma will be in the real world presented in a top down view as she moves about throwing switches and casting various shadows around the room with her lantern. Fenton on the other hand within the shadow realm will be presented in a 2D platforming style composed of all of the elements making up Emma’s real world.
It’s really bizarre at first but easy to get into as not only do your points of view change from a top down adventure style to a 2D platforming style, but the visual presentation also changes from full colours into a black and white presentation. Mixing that in with the various physical yet not physical elements of the environment depending on who you’re controlling and it made me glad to have short bursts set up in a node design instead of one giant world with checkpoints. Sometimes you really needed a small break to reset your mind from what you just went through.
But it works, and it works very well as long as you remember to think in terms of top down and 2D as you go along. Some switches will require Fenton to step on them for Emma to walk through a door. Others will require Emma to press in order to unlock something in the real world that would allow Fenton to traverse once a bridge of shadow has been made. It’s not all shadows and rainbows however as there is plenty that can go wrong from mechanical spiders that will hunt Emma down to Fenton missing a jump and falling into spikes or shadowy waves rushing by just below. Thankfully there’s no real “reloading” or checkpoint system and instead you just get warped back to the last safe spot that you were standing on.
So overall, while I do wish that there was more narrative and storytelling as I think Tandem: A Tale of Shadows could have really benefited from that addition, what’s being presented in terms of gameplay was both fun to play and challenging. From alternating points of view and visual presentations over to some creating puzzle solving, I think that Monochrome Paris and Hatinh Interactive have created something worth looking into.Score: 7.75 / 10