A Shadow's Tale setup is both simple and rather ingenious. You play as a boy's shadow as he attempts to climb a huge tower to regain his mortal vessel, which is imprisoned at the top. This one quirk adds a whole new dimension to the basic run-and-jump platforming formula.
Not only do you have to carefully time your jumps and slash away at enemies with your sword, but you also have to pay attention to the light source, since that's what is providing you with your platforms. After all, you're a shadow - you don't walk on the platforms themselves, but the shadows that those platforms project. Duly, you'll spend much of your time fiddling around with and moving items to ensure the light casts the correct shadows for you to progress.
For the first few hours of play, it's a delightfully fresh approach that had us waxing lyrical about how reminiscent it was of Amiga classics such as the original 2D Prince of Persia and Another World. Not only is it a really clever puzzling mechanic that's great fun to wrap your brain around, but it looks absolutely bewitching too. The lonely, solemn environments, eerie soundtrack and bizarre creatures give the game a feel unlike any other.
Only after the umpteenth lever switch does the realisation dawn that the beauty is only skin deep. The unfortunate truth is that A Shadow's Tale takes its brilliant central idea and then spreads it disappointingly thin. There are precious few gear changes, no real set pieces to get the pulse racing and no new gameplay elements introduced to keep things interesting. It's a game that appears irresistible at first sight, but whose charms quickly wear off.
Ultimately, if this were a three-hour-long, 1,000 point WiiWare download, we'd have been first in line to shower it with praise. Its minimalist, artsy approach is absolutely perfect for the service, and it's not like there are too many lush cinematic setpieces to gobble up the file size either. We'd wager it would have found a much more enthusiastic audience on WiiWare than it will in the ruthless high street marketplace.
For some strange reason, though, Konami has decided to push this out at full price and bloat its length to the point where our initial goodwill almost entirely evaporated. There are some brilliant, affecting and ambitious moments to be enjoyed here, but you'll be reaching for the Wii's off button long before its makers intended.
This is an edited version of a review that appears in issue 61 of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more in-depth analysis, screenshots and boxouts, buy the magazine here.