Greta is a young girl set on an adventure after causing some havoc in her town. She ends up running away – but not alone. She is joined by a little bright ball that allows her to manipulate light in her favor to get around and solve puzzles. The main theme of Projection: First Light is a shadow puppet theater. You can see the little sticks holding the characters and there’s always a brightness in the background, while everything else is shadows. Even the instruments used to create the music were often used in the shows during the ancient times they were popular. It’s a casual game with fairly easy puzzles that are made more difficult because of the way you must project the light. There are plenty of levels, spanning multiple countries. Sit back and relax while you play at your own pace.
Here’s what I liked:
Ancient Storytelling — There’s a decent chance you have seen a shadow puppet theater in a movie without quite knowing what it was. I recommend doing a little research, as it’s an interesting way to tell a story. No scenes have any talking in them, but with body language and signs you can still figure out what’s happening. It truly feels like you’re watching a play. Someone has to be moving all the figures around, right? You almost imagine there’s an audience watching, and maybe there is. As you play through each level, you’ll advance to other countries that have their own unique puzzle elements. A change in culture is a change in how you must solve getting from one point to another. It reminded me of the It’s a Small World ride at a Disney theme park. The ending is no surprise and gives that final teaching moment.
A Good Mood — Sometimes it’s nice to put away your guns and forget about destroying enemies. You will find very mild violence here, with no worries about wondering if you need to keep or sell items such as in other games. You do everything at your own pace. You can throw the game on for an hour and feel content with your progress. No need to rush and easy to pick back up after taking a long break from it. The scenes that you watch are always pretty brief and you can skip some of them. It allows total freedom of time, allowing you to play it in the background while doing other things. You don’t even have to pause! You can just let the music play while you do whatever life demands; bathroom break, feeding a pet, running to grab food. It really is just a nice casual yet enjoyable experience. You can even replay scenes to finish up collectibles.
Light Effects — Getting around and solving puzzles require manipulation of light. It’s easy to get used to but still makes you think. The difficulty of puzzles increases a little bit at a time but never feels insurmountable. You just have to play around with the shadow to see how far you can push it to make the best bridge, or to move other objects for you. I really love how it all works. My favorite trick is using a shadow as an elevator. Some of the tricky puzzles have you moving the light around in small places, requiring precision in movement. But you can be as slow and careful as you want! There are always new ones to solve too, I never felt I was doing the same thing. There are a few boss battles, which is the only real enemy, but they are few and far between and usually quite easy. Still, it mixes things up and allows exploration of the mechanics. And I can’t emphasize enough, it’s easy but requires thinking. Most people won’t get stuck for very long, and to me, that’s important so that just about anyone can complete it yet still feel accomplished.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Consumed by Shadows — Not surprisingly, there are times when the player gets trapped in a shadow that’s created. Sometimes you’ll move a little too fast and your feet will become entangled in the blackness, making you unable to move until you correct it. Some light sources are automatic and getting stuck in them can mean waiting until they vanish again. Your character can bypass walls by accident, looking as if you teleported. This has helped me a few times, but mostly it means you’ll be quitting the game and restarting your checkpoint. There are impassable walls where, once you have passed by mistake (not so impassable!), you cannot get out. This is a real mood killer that goes from a small annoyance to severely frustrated. It happened multiple times throughout my adventure, so I really hope it gets fixed. Restarting can set you back quite a ways, as you don’t load at your checkpoint but rather the start of the level.
Nothing Else to Do — After beating the story, the only thing you’ll have left is maybe getting a few missing butterflies. There is an absence of wanting to replay the game. The biggest issue is the collectibles. The ones you have collected reappear, and I believe are a little bit darker but it’s quite hard for me to tell. I swear I picked one up that I missed, finished the level, and it still showed I was missing one. So the only thing left to do, I don’t even want to go back for. While I enjoyed a lot of what I played, there was nothing truly groundbreaking or worth experiencing for a second time.
With a unique backdrop and clever use of shadows, Projection: First Light delivers what it intended. A calm and casual puzzle platformer that is a pleasure to play through. The story is delivered in a nice shadow puppetry fashion, though some may find it hard to follow because there is no talking or narration. The biggest downside is getting glitched into walls or stuck. If save points could have been the actual checkpoints, then maybe it wouldn’t have been as much of a problem. The design and music are great, as well as how the puzzles are tackled. But because you or items can be glitched in areas they shouldn’t be, it becomes a persistent hope that it doesn’t happen (again), requiring you to restart the level. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it’ll take some reworking of the game mechanics to really shine.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Projection: First Light was published by Blowfish Studios and developed by Shadowplay Studios on Xbox One. It was released on September 28, 2020, for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.