PAX South 2019: ‘Projection: First Light’

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Projection First Light

Projection: First Light is a 2D game that was recently featured at PAX South. It is a puzzle game that’s heavily influenced by the history and culture of shadow puppet theater. In this simplistic but beautiful game, you play as Greta, a young girl looking for her estranged parents in a mythological world of shadow puppets. Your journey takes you far and wide, visiting various countries in which shadow puppetry has evolved. The countries you explore include China, Indonesia, Greece, Turkey, and 19th century England.  Along the way, you’ll encounter legendary heroes and become immersed in various tales from each of these cultures.

As stated, this game is heavily influenced by shadow puppet theater. In fact, Greta herself is a puppet, along with the other characters you meet along your journey. Each level you play is set up like a scene in a theater. The background is textured like a canvas backdrop and the shadows of various objects and buildings are projected onto this canvas.

The background scenery changes as you run through different levels and countries. From 19th century England, punctuated by smokestacks, through ancient China, with its traditional temples, and into the jungles of Indonesia, the scenery reflects the culture and art of these countries. The music ties everything together nicely and interestingly has been created by using antique instruments historically used for shadow puppetry performances.

I was at first drawn to this game because it reminded me of Limbo, a game I undeniably enjoyed. However, although reminiscent, this game is very different, especially in the mechanics. If playing on a console, each joystick controls a different element in the game. The left stick controls Greta, while the right stick controls an incorporeal orb of light. Greta, being a shadow herself, can stand on other shadows. Therefore, your objective is to move the orb around to cast shadows off of objects in the background to create platforms for Greta to stand on and move her through the level.

The first few levels are relatively simplistic; they teach you the mechanics of the game and allow you to get used to moving the orb of light around. The orb can be a little sensitive and getting your angles down to create just the right shadow can be tricky. What this game does well, is get progressively trickier, requiring you to be imaginative and use elegant solutions to move along.

This game is satisfying in its simplistic but beautiful graphics and profound in its depiction of the culture and history of shadow puppetry. It’s sad to think that shadow puppetry is a dying art considering the simplistic beauty of this game. It may be a far-flung hope that this game may spark more interest in shadow puppetry but it can definitely be appreciated for attempting to emphasize this beautiful art and highlight the multiculturalism surrounding this craft.

Projection: First Light is developed by Shadowplay Studios, a small indy developer based out of Australia. Although the release date is expected to be fall of 2019, you can go check out the game on Steam and their website.

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