Bev Chen
23 Sep, 2010

Twisted Lands: Shadow Town Review

PC Review | Not as spooky as it sounds.
With our perpetually busy lifestyles and increasing use of technology, it’s no secret that the casual games market is one of the largest in the industry. Companies such as Big Fish Games and PopCap have marked their territory well, each boasting a long list of popular (and profitable) titles. Alawar Entertainment is also similar, having created over 200 casual games since 2001, with genres ranging from adventure games to action titles. Their latest offering, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town falls into the former category, featuring a mixture of point and click and hidden object gameplay.

With a title like Twisted Lands: Shadow Town, you would be forgiven if you thought you were in for a gothic adventure, complete with spooky castles and insane villagers. Instead, the game takes you through an unexpected setting, including a couple of shipwrecks and an underwater cavern. There are a couple of typical adventure game environments as well, such as a Baroque chapel and eerie, fog-covered woods.

You’re going to see a lot of these.

You’re going to see a lot of these.
Horror fans might find the game’s plot to be similar to the first Silent Hill game. You’re happily boating around with your wife, staring dreamily into her eyes and all that mushy stuff, when your boat suddenly capsizes on a deserted island and your wife goes missing. Being the lovestruck husband that you are, your priority is to find and rescue her. However, unlike Silent Hill, Shadow Town’s horror atmosphere is as tame and family-friendly as it gets. No bloodstains or creepy children here, just the occasional ghost (played by real-life actors, it seems) and the mandatory, ‘mysterious’ diary entries. Unfortunately, these horror elements also end up being the game’s undoing, with the majority of them going totally unexplained. Trust us, we know how annoying too many red herrings in a story are, especially when you’re playing an adventure game.

As previously mentioned, Shadow Town is a point and click game, with some hidden object and puzzle segments thrown in from good measure. Of course, being a casual title, Shadow Town’s gameplay is very easy to get the hang of. Pointing and clicking at an area of interest will allow you to examine... oh, you know the rest. It’s a tried and true formula and as you can imagine, nothing has been done (and really, can be done) to change this. The user interface works well and is unintrusive, with the inventory popping up when you mouse over the lower part of the screen.

BONUS IN-BROWSER MINIGAME: Can you find all the objects?

BONUS IN-BROWSER MINIGAME: Can you find all the objects?
The game ties all of its gameplay sections together quite well; for example, you may need a key to progress further, so you should go and search through a pile of rubble, checking off a number of other items at the same time. However, the game only specifies a small number of locations where these hide-n-seek minigames can take place. This can get annoying, especially since the game doesn’t always give you a hint as to where you should go to find the item. This also leads to a substantial amount of backtracking, something that will become particularly frustrating for obvious reasons near the end of the game. Combine this with some instances of object use not really making much sense, and chances are you will be referring to the walkthrough (included with the Collector’s Edition of the game) a fair bit.

The hidden object segments, on the other hand, are much easier, as the game doesn’t pull tricks in the wording of objects that need to be found. More experienced gamers might even say that these segments are too easy, especially since the only consequence of rapid, aimless clicking is that you are unable to click for a few seconds. Adding to Shadow Town’s rather low difficulty level are its puzzles. While it is true that they are by far the most challenging aspect of the game, the time you have spent on said puzzles is measured. Take long enough and the game will give you an option to skip the puzzle entirely. Once again, it’s a neat touch for casual gamers who would prefer to get on with the game, but others may not appreciate this too much.

It’s pretty tough if you’re unfamiliar with astrology... or didn’t look at that helpful note.

It’s pretty tough if you’re unfamiliar with astrology... or didn’t look at that helpful note.
Like most games of the type, Shadow Town is quite a short game, clocking in at about three to four hours, depending on your skill level. There isn’t much incentive to go back and replay the main game, as even the hidden object lists are the same. However, the Collector’s Edition comes with a bonus chapter which is unlocked upon completion of the main game. It’s an interesting addition to the main storyline and some may find that it is closer to what they were expecting of the game’s atmosphere.

We’ve often wondered about how much effort goes into creating the music and sound effects for games as frequently produced as these and we would be surprised if the answer was “none at all”. Shadow Town’s music is one of its best features and has a spooky, ethereal quality about it. The only issue we have with the music is that once a music track stops playing, there will be complete silence for a minute or so, after which a different track will start. It’s quite jarring the first few times, but most will get used to it. Similarly, the game’s graphics are quite good and are mostly made up of still, well-drawn frames with the occasional animated element to hold the player’s interest.

Twisted Lands: Shadow Town isn’t groundbreaking adventure game stuff, but would casual gamers really want that anyway? Gameplay-wise, it ticks all the right boxes, but there are some instances of it becoming quite frustrating. By far the biggest let-down is the story, which should have been its strongest point, but falls flat despite its best attempts. If you’re not in it for that, have $20 to burn and are looking for some point and click action, Shadow Town might be worth checking out... but there are bound to be better choices out there.
The Score
A competent adventure game hybrid in its own right, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town delivers what casual gamers will no doubt be familiar with. However, its poor story structure and rather steep price makes it a tough game to recommend to anyone looking for a fulfilling title.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
3 years ago
The name doesn't really sound that spooky at all. It sounds like they spat two names out of an online spooky name generator and whacked a colon in the middle.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/09/2010 (Confirmed)
Year Made:

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