The world of shadow puppets gets a lot more high tech with the release of ShuddaHaddaLottaFun’s Shadow Fencer Theatre. Featuring quirky aesthetics and even quirkier mechanics, is this a class act or a piece of work?
Shadow Fencer Theatre Review
Shadow puppets are a trifle difficult to control, as can be seen in this one-on-one brawler. With the left stick controlling your character and the right controlling your attack arm, the ultimate goal is to take down your opponent with a striking blow. This is far easier said than done, especially when considering the opponent has the same goal in mind.
Shadow Fencer Theatre is awkward by design – expect to clang weapons and riposte right when you see an opening. It doesn’t always work as smoothly as you expect – SoulCalibur this is not – but as a more casual title, it is possible. Players can also throw their weapon as a last-ditch effort, but this is about as complex as it gets. Don’t expect a high skill ceiling or responsive inputs – what you see is what you get.
There is a fair amount of content to keep players going. A Story Mode made up of three acts is available, narrated by a chap of the titular Shadow Fencer Theatre. Brief narration of locales like “The Traveling Zoo,” “Haunt of the Darned,” and “Attack on Metrokyo” exudes charm, but it this stage play is over before it even begins. While the addition of minigames each intermission provides a palate cleanser, the repetition from each bout starts to wear thin – players must take down the opponent five times, and each duel can drag for a good time.
In addition, the AI can be somewhat erratic and the stage layout can be counterintuitive. There were times where the computer opponent kamikazed themselves off the stage, netting us an unjustified point. There were also times where the stage layout had dark zones, meaning that our character and opponent could not be seen. Though it adds some variety, it does prove to be a bit cumbersome.
Those who would rather change up the parameters can jump into its improv mode. With support for points, takes, and “stealer” (which has players gaining stock for every stock taken), there’s a fair amount to choose from. Note that no online play is available.
A Marathon Mode has also been included, which lets people face a stream of foes on their rise to the top. The rapid fire approach is a refreshing one, and wins, “Grandmaster Time,” and top rank are all tracked. Stat junkies will have a grand time going through this mode.
Rounding things out are a number of minigames in its “Skits” mode. Each one offers a fair amount of variety, from rowing to rocket-ship rides. They’re a novelty, sure, but a fun one nonetheless.
Note that those looking to play this game for an extended period of time best bring patience. We installed the title on an SSD and still encountered loading times that were upwards of 10 seconds.
Shadow Fencer Theatre is a quirky title, in more ways than one. Its aesthetics are truly charming, but the gameplay proves to be a bit too awkward for its own good.
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