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By Matthew Scott Hunter
‘Lost in Shadow’ (E10+)
Less than perfect
In classic “Peter Pan” fashion, a shadow has become separated from the boy who casts him — only this time, it’s the shady silhouette who must endeavor to return to his more corporeal counterpart. This involves scaling a massive 60-level tower, but rather than finding passage in the building’s three-dimensional corridors and walkways, you’ll be traveling atop the 2D shadows that the labyrinthine structure casts upon itself. Accessing new areas will require you to not only manipulate the physical environment, but also the various sources of light that determine where all the shadows are, which sets the stage for some brilliant, brainteasing puzzles. And there’s a touch of combat as well, since, as every winter-prolonging groundhog knows, some shadows can be very threatening.
With its young protagonist, shadowy adversaries and deserted, ancient fortress to explore, “Lost in Shadow” will doubtless remind many gamers of “Ico,” while the mindbending gameplay conjures up thoughts of “Echochrome.” “Shadow” definitely scores points with these similarities, however, it never quite becomes as memorable as its contemporaries due to pacing problems and control issues. Before a few twists shake up the gameplay late in the story, the game spends many hours feeling like a repetitive series of fetch quests. And a frustrating lag in the controls makes platforming and combat a pain. Had this game been released on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, the vivid atmosphere might have compensated for the control deficits, but since the Wii has no shortage of remarkable platformers, gamers shouldn’t have to settle for less than perfection.
‘Neogeo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting’ (T)
All of your favorite NeoGeo characters are here in this vertical scrolling shoot’em-up (which is odd, since, with the exception of “Metal Slug,” most of them come from arcade fighting games that have nothing to do with flying or shooting). In an arcade cabinet, this game might be as fun as “1943” and other top-down shooters, but the horizontal widescreen design of the PSP screen is completely wrong for this kind of game. “NeoGeo Heroes” gives you the option to play by holding the PSP vertically, but then the control scheme is ridiculously awkward.
‘Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors’ (M)
Given the enormous amount of reading involved, “Nine Hours” often seems more like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book than a video game, but that’s not a bad thing, since the narrative is surprisingly compelling. You and eight quirky characters, imprisoned on a ship and implanted with explosives, must solve a series of puzzles under the strict rules of your mysterious captor. The story pays a terrific amount of attention to environmental detail, subtle character reactions and intriguing dialogue, and six endings (aside from the ones that have you splattered all over the deck) demand multiple play-throughs.
‘SBK X: Superbike World Championship’ (E10+)
SouthPeak Games/Deep Silver
In the crowded market of motorcycle racing games, “SBK X” tries to keep its position in the pack by appealing to everybody. Casual fans will be more comfortable with the forgiving physics of the Arcade Mode, while purists will prefer tumbling over the handlebars frustratingly but realistically often in Simulation Mode. Unfortunately, by splitting their time between two wildly different styles of play, the designers failed to make either mode particularly memorable. CV