Pete Witcher is a Feature and Community Writer for Blowfish Studios.
“In a world full of shadows, whoever controls the light controls how the world works.”
- Michael Chu, Game Creator.
Projection: First Light is a visually stunning and innovative game whose bold design is based on 2D light-and-shadow silhouette puppetry from different eras and cultures around the world. The designers’ artistry and care are evident in every aspect of this game; it’s utterly unique and extremely well-executed. Despite being unapologetically 2D, the designers make sure you feel the cavernous spaces of the mansions, cityscapes, oceans, and other environments you explore. The many background layers provide a sense of three-dimensional visual depth at a scale that would be almost unimaginable using traditional, non-digital techniques.
But Projection: First Light’s most special and intriguing feature is the way you manipulate light and shadow to interact with the environment in the game. You control both Greta the two-dimensional puppet and a magical floating ball of light, using shadows and beams of light to create objects and surfaces to battle foes, solve puzzles, and overcome obstacles. For instance, when Greta is walking through a cave with her glowing companion, she encounters a deep crevasse too wide to jump across, with a high, sheer wall on the other side. If you float the light to the top of the far wall, it casts a slanting shadow. Adjust the light so the shadow slopes down to Greta’s feet, and she can step onto the shadow and walk up it like a ramp to reach the other side.
It may sound complicated, but once you try it for yourself, you’ll be surprised how easily and intuitively you get the hang of it and start looking for more ways to use your new shadow powers. As you play, the game teaches you how to work with light, gradually showing you what you can do. And while the the light/shadow mechanic never changes, the world around you does, providing increasingly challenging puzzles to solve and bosses to defeat. Whenever you enter a new area, you’ll find yourself moving the light around just to see what happens, which will spark plenty of “Aha!” moments of discovery.
There’s no dialog in the game, staying true to the style of traditional puppetry. The entire story is told with images, and told well. After disrespecting her elders and encountering her special light, Greta embarks on a journey of curiosity and multiculturalism, learning valuable life lessons as she steps into the mythology and folklore of China, England, Indonesia, and Turkey. Heroes from each culture accompany Greta on her journey that traces the history of shadow puppetry itself. Each location has its own distinct art design, incorporating elements of the culture’s real-life shadow puppet traditions. The overall look and feel of the game is haunting yet familiar, and the art is painstakingly detailed and ever respectful of the cultural styles to which it pays homage. The game’s ethereal music was even performed on antique instruments that were played as part of actual shadow puppet performances.
With Projection: First Light coming out exclusively on Apple Arcade this year, many, many people will get to discover this shining example of creativity and brilliant innovation. They’ll probably start seeing puzzle games in a whole new light. The light/shadow mechanic really is a bright idea, and it spotlights what a small team of designers and developers can accomplish with just a spark of creativity. Projection: First Light will brighten your day and open your eyes to a fascinating world of history, culture, and beauty.
Projection: First Light is exclusively arriving to Apple Arcade later this year.