Twisted Lands: Shadow Town is a hidden objects game by Alawar Entertainment, ported from mobile platforms to the PlayStation 3. While it’s been available on the PlayStation Network for a few months now in Europe, it’s just arrived in North America. The big question is: should it have taken the long journey over the Atlantic in the first place?
The first entry in the Twisted Lands franchise, it deals with a treasure hunter (Mark) on a voyage with his fiancée (Angel). After falling overboard, the protagonist wakes up on the shore of a creepy, fog-laden island, and his partner is nowhere in sight. Indeed, while this was definitely an island inhabited by others, everyone is now mysteriously absent. Fortunately, the intrepid adventurer starts finding Snake Idols that open up a door in a cave – but will all of his questions be answered inside?
The game's mechanics are simple enough, and they work well. Many of the puzzles revolve around hidden objects, which you’ll need to uncover in order to progress. These can be genuinely challenging – especially when you don’t realise that you’re staring at the solution until there’s nothing left to discover. There are also other types of puzzles, including rearranging blocks into predetermined patterns, which offer a nice change of pace from the core experience.
Unfortunately, from a technical standpoint, the game is a bit of a mess. For starters, the frame rate is horrendous – even though there’s very little happening on the screen a lot of the time. Furthermore, the realistic art style looks very dated, and the game would have benefitted from a more abstract appearance. Thankfully, there are at least a handful of nice animations that occur when you attempt to interact with an object.
Much like the gameplay, the controls are incredibly simplistic. The layout consists of using X and the right analogue stick, with everything else selectable via the on-screen interface. While this all works fine, the technical mishaps mean that tasks end up feeling like they are taking longer than they probably should.
From a musical standpoint, the soundtrack for the game is competently made. It would have been better if it didn't have to fill the place of voice acting, however. The lack of dialogue in the game means that the soundtrack has to cover a lot more audible ground, and it doesn't really possess the gusto to do so. Additionally, from a technical perspective, the score stutters and drops altogether far too often for any of the music to be listened to in its entirety. Worse still, many of the audio effects sound like stock samples, and don’t really stand out enough.
Fortunately, the narrative does, though. While the protagonist’s inner monologues and observations could be touched up a bit, the plot is enjoyably mysterious without ever getting too zany. Furthermore, the various environments that you’ll encounter are brimming with atmosphere, adding to the intrigue of the main story thread. It’s never especially spooky like the developer perhaps intended, but it’s still creepy enough to keep you engaged.
You’ll only remain interested for around three to four hours, however, as the title doesn’t take long to complete. Perhaps the biggest problem with this running time is that you’ll never feel the will to replay it, making its steep asking price a little tough to stomach.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Twisted Lands: Shadow Town, but it just doesn’t feel at home on the PS3. Furthermore, between the technical hiccups and poor audio work, the game never really comes close to justifying its high price point. If you must play it, we recommend that you do so on your phone, where it was arguably intended to be experienced. Otherwise, it's perfectly fine to just let this game pass you by.