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Shadwen Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While not as deep as Hitman or Metal Gear Solid V, Shadwen delivers a fun and fast-paced stealth experience with a compelling story and accessible gameplay. It also innovates on the genre by giving players control over moving time forwards and backwards, something I would like to see incorporated into more stealth action games. Rating: 64%
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  • Review Score:

  • B-
A few months ago, I reviewed a small first-person shooter called Superhot. Although simple looking, this clever indie game had one hell of a killer conceit. The action around you only moved when you did, allowing for some mind-bending, super-human excitement the likes I had never seen before. Shadwen takes almost the exact same approach and mixes it with a traditional stealth game to create a fast-paced adventure I can't help but enjoy.

You play the titular character, an assassin who will stop at nothing to kill the King. Her dedication is put to the test when she befriends a young orphaned girl named Lily. With nowhere safe to go, the young girl tags along with the ruthless killer on her dangerous journey. It's a lot like a medieval version of Leon: The Professional, only without the statutory rape subtext.

While the idea of a stealth action game with a computer-controlled companion sounds like a recipe for disaster, I was pleasantly surprised that Shadwen managed to come up with creative solutions to the problems that frequently haunt this style of game. This is not a deep and plodding stealth game, but rather a fast-paced action-packed joyride where you can practically run from enemy to enemy.

With Lily by your side, the goal is to either kill or distract the guards in order to move from one hiding spot to the next. Shadwen has a grappling hook she can use to climb up buildings and pull down objects. The assassin can choose to live up to her job title and kill everybody standing in the way, or she can take a more family-friendly approach and simply distract everybody, clearing a way for Lily. Both approaches are equally viable, and I found myself bouncing from one type of play to another as I snuck through the lengthy adventure.

Much like Superhot, time only ticks forward as our hero moves. If she stands perfectly still, everything will stop -- even the raindrops. This gives us time to survey the surroundings and execute incredible stunts. And if that plan fails for whatever reason, we're able to reverse time at the press of a button. This gives Shadwen the freedom to try out any silly idea, since she'll be able to rewind time no matter what. This is definitely a mechanic I would like to see in more stealth games going forward.

Shadwen (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

I don't know if it was the time management gameplay or how light the stealth action is, but all this worked on me. I liked that it didn't get bogged down in lengthy cinemas, instead giving us brief bits of dialog during the few loading screens. I also appreciated that Lily is completely invisible to the guards, allowing us to never once have to worry about her safety. There were times when I completely forgot I had a small child following my every move.

Unfortunately, there are a number of gameplay decisions that keep this from hitting the same heights as Superhot. The biggest problem involves the grappling hook, which can be a real pain at times. Swinging from one platform to the next takes real skill and pulling boxes is never as simple as it should be. I hated trying to pull myself up to hard to reach ledges, something that most other games get right.

These issues with the grappling hook come into sharp focus the moment the heavily-armored guards show up. Normally, you can sneak up behind a bad guy and plunge your knife into their back, but armored guards require Shadwen to drop a heavy object on them. This is a cool idea, but I hated trying to line up the shots. There are too many times when it's nearly impossible to see what you're doing, forcing repeated retries until you get it right. This is made easier with the rewind button, but it's still frustrating.

Shadwen (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

For as much as I enjoyed the arcade-style approach to the stealth action, I wish it took place in a more interesting setting. We fight through castles, dungeons and the city streets, all drenched in darkness. There isn't much light in this game, so a lot the backgrounds begin to blur together after a while. This isn't helped by the repetitive stage objectives, which occasionally gave me a bad case of deja vu.

While it's a little rough around the edges and the graphics feel a bit dated, Shadwen offers a fun and unique take on the stealth genre. Fans looking for a deep experience along the lines of Hitman or Metal Gear Solid V will be disappointed, but those hoping for a more accessible outing will find a lot to like in this low-priced package. There are some really good ideas here that I would like to see expanded in a deeper and more polished adventure game.
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