BlackShadows is a game that, at first, looked like it had the markings of a terrible game. The average rating for its reviews on its Steam page was “negative” and it likely made it through Greenlight simply because it offered a free copy to whoever voted for it. Naturally, I expected this to be a Steam disaster on the same level as Day One Gary’s Incident or The Slaughtering Grounds. Thankfully, BlackShadows was better than I expected, but only barely.
While I still would not consider BlackShadows to be a good game by any means, I do still feel it at least offers a small amount of decent ideas and the bare minimum amount of effort put into it to be However, the problem is that it really has nothing to offer other then exceeding the absurdly low expectations set for it. In general, BlackShadows is just bland and generic.
The game starts out with a narration over a blank black background. I’d love to be able to talk about it, but I honestly cannot remember what it was about. It is clear that it is an excuse plot and was inserted into the game at the last minute. It is clear that this was the case due to multiple reasons.
First of all, there are no subtitles. This would be manageable if the speaker did not have a very thick English accent that can be hard to understand. It also does not help that the lines were not even acted well. The second is that they have no relation to the gameplay or in game setting. If there was an attempt at a storyline in BlackShadows, then it was way too vague and bland to contribute anything to the game’s overall quality.
The game’s premise is as follows; you wander around dark, narrow, mazey corridors trying to collect mccguffins while avoiding a monster of some sort. If this sounds familiar (which it should because I tried to make it sound as similar to Slender as I could), then you will notice that this sounds just like Slender. For those unaware, Slender was a popular freeware horror title that quickly took off in 2012. It was a game where you needed to collect 8 pages while avoiding the Slenderman. What made the game notably intense was that, unlike most horror games where you could see the monster that was chasing you and could get away from it; in Slender, it is game over the moment you catch a glimpse of him. As such, you were constantly kept on edge knowing he could pop out at any minute.
Now I will admit that I personally did not care much for Slender. The main reason I did not is because the game’s scare factor comes down to one big jump scare, and there really is not much depth to it. However, I can at least see why others did like it, and I know enough to point out what it had that BlackShadows doesn’t. Unlike Slender, there is not actually a monster stalking you, despite the game’s desperate attempt to convince you there is.
You can pretty much stand still for an extended length of time in the dark with your flashlight off, and the killer will not catch you as long as your flashlight has batteries. This becomes even more problematic when the game throws jump scares at you and tells you that “he saw you” or “he’s here.” It becomes obvious that this game is trying to build up tensions and to scare you, but you already know it’s all fake and meaningless, which is something that no horror game should EVER make you feel.
As previously mentioned, the only way you will ever be in danger is if you run out of batteries for you flashlight. If that happens, the lights will go out, you will walk around for a few seconds, and then the game cuts to black with screaming in the background. The idea behind conserving batteries is a good one considering it requires you to keep an eye on how much energy you have left and come up with tricks to save some. Unfortunately, this also discourages you from exploring or looking at your surroundings… not that they were particularly interesting to begin with, just dark corridors and shelves.
There are a few other issues that are preventing the game from being good as well. First of all, there is a lack of music in the retail version despite there being some in the prototype on Gamejolt. Secondly, if you get a game over, the doors you unlocked stay unlocked, which removes the challenge of conserving batteries. However, that still made the game more convenient given how difficult it is to make your way around the mazey corridors with all the darkness. Lastly, there is no save feature so it all needs to be done in one sitting.
BlackShadows was more enjoyable than all the negative reviews made it out to be. However, that was only the case because it was so shallow and short lived that I completed it before I had the chance to get bored. I beat Blackshadows in less than half an hour, and I have heard some say they managed in less than 20 minutes. Forget the “dollar per hour” test, this doesn’t even pass the three dollars per hour test, and there was nothing of remote substance in that time span either.
Blackshadows is missing way too many of the features required to even serve as a passable Slender clone, which is setting the bar low when one considers that Slender wasn’t particularly good to begin with. It also lacks just about anything interesting or unique to it. BlackShadows is $3.00 on Steam, and the amount of enjoyment may be worth that price. However, when one considers that there are dozens of similar games available for free that are better than BlackShadows, it becomes obvious that BlackShadows should have just stayed in the shadows.
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