Ever since I first played Tenchu: Stealth Assassins I’ve yearned for more games where I could silently linger in the shadows until the moment I could slide a cold steel blade through the lungs of some unsuspecting victim. I’m sure if I was to mention this to a psychiatrist I would be heavily medicated from now until eternity, but Doctor Punk and Doctor Lizard prescribed a full treatment of Frozenbyte’s stealth action game Shadwen.
Shadwen starts by showing you the last few moments of the game. Here you will see a knife-wielding woman and young girl confronting a snoozing king, and then it jumps to earlier in the evening where it all began. The opening level has you controlling the aforementioned little girl, who is called Lily, and you must guide her to an apple tree located in the town’s Chapel garden. As you make your way you will be taught the basics of the game: stay out of sight, hide in bushes and haystacks, distract guards with noises – all the usual stealthy game stuff –and when you reach the apple tree a guard collars you for your thieving antics. The game then switches to the knife-wielding woman. She is the titular Shadwen, an assassin on a mission to murder the king, and to get to the king she must use a secret passage located (you guessed it) in the Chapel. Here you see Lily and the guard and want to do what comes natural – kill the guard. But you must make a choice: do you let Lily see you kill him or not, and this decision will affect the rest of the game. I had no trouble deciding; I killed the guard in front of her. Welcome to my brutal world, Lily!
Shadwen adds a few unique twists to the usual stealth game. The first of which is having Lily follow you on your mission, so you must either distract guards so she can move from hiding spot to hiding spot or else kill all the guards. Another unique point is that time stops whenever you stop. This means that you can jump and then use the right stick to look around. This is a perfect way to aim your grappling hook. Oh yeah I forgot to mention you have a grappling hook. This time freeze will mean you will spend most of the game with your finger on the R1 button. Also whenever a guard sees you, or stumbles across a dead guard that you may have forgotten to hide, the alarm is raised and it is Game Over, but that’s not a problem as you can hold the L1 button to rewind time. Rewinding isn’t limited, like in games such as Prince of Persia. You can even rewind right the way back to the beginning of the level.
The graphics in Shadwen do seem a bit of a let-down. I don’t mean that it looks bad, far from it, but it’s from the team that did the artistically wonderful Trine series so I was expecting it to look a bit more polished. Also the plot moves forward via dialogue during the loading screens which is a map of the town. This isn’t a big deal but I’d have liked to see some more of the stylish-looking artwork that was shown in the game’s opening and ending scenes.
Shadwen has a healthy forty eight trophies up for grabs. However if you are planning on getting its platinum you will need to complete multiple playthroughs. This is because each level has separate trophies for finishing both with and without killing the guards in addition to the four trophies that are dependent on your ending.
Shadwen offers you the chance to be the type of assassin you want, be it the one that only kills their intended target or the one that kills everyone who gets in their way. It adds freshness to the genre by using the time manipulation and by letting you have the option of shielding Lily from your killer ways, giving you extra playthroughs that each have a different approach and feel to them.
NelMaNo Rating – 7/10