What was your favourite fairytale as a child? Well, whatever the answer, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows could easily be inspired by it (at least to some degree). Right from the off you’re plunged into an eerie Tim Burton-esque world, populated with beings right out of a tale such as Alice in Wonderland.
You assume the role of both Emma and her companion, Fenton the teddy bear, as they take on the case which Scotland Yard has so far failed to solve: the disappearance of the famous magician Thomas Kane. Their investigation takes them right up to the front doors of a mysterious manor, before things start to get really strange.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows steps away from the traditional puzzle platformer by requiring you to control two characters who travel through different dimensions to reach their common goal. The camera angle is top-down, with Emma being based on the ground in the normal dimension you and I exist in. However, Fenton traverses in what I will call the side-scrolling “shadow realm”, and you can swap between controlling each of them with the triggers on the Xbox controller.
Fenton can use the shadows as platforms to get around (crossing chasms often filled with deadly spikes for example), and Emma can manipulate these to help him along by adjusting light sources and bending them to create a path. However, Fenton must be on solid ground before you switch back to controlling Emma, and he cannot be left submerged in shadow. Getting the balance of light and dark is the essence of the gameplay here, and it works really well.
In return, Fenton will open doors, remove hazards and generally work to keep Emma safe. However, he is the one who acquires the shard at the end of each level to complete it. There are a fair few levels split over five themed areas of the manor, each culminating in a face off with a boss character, but you’ll need to avoid these beasts rather than fight them. There is no combat in Tandem: A Tale of Shadows; you’ll need to use your smarts to survive.
There are many creatures which you will need to outsmart, such as spiders and octopuses. Both characters will need to work together to get past these enemies whilst being careful not to put each other in danger. For example, in one area Fenton will need to pull a whistle to lure a spider, whilst Emma lies in wait to box it into a corner at just the right time. This is just one moment in which the single player co-op gameplay works in a very pleasing way.
There are many levels which house secret areas that you can access via hidden narrow entrances. Once discovered, these will unlock art gallery entries which can be found in the main menu. They will also net you some decent Gamerscore to boot.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is a good looking game. The environments are vibrant and detailed which do a great job of sucking you in. The soundtrack is nothing short of enchanting, despite being set in a world filled with danger. The only thing that lets it down is the framerate, which at certain points starts to jarr quite significantly which very noticeably affects the performance. Thankfully this is intermittent, and doesn’t detract too much from the enjoyment of the game.
At £19.99, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is fairly pricey as there’s only a few short hours of gameplay on offer. The puzzles get gradually more difficult, but just when you find yourself beginning to enjoy the more challenging ones, the game comes to an end. It’s a rather grim and abrupt ending too, but I won’t spoil that for you here.
Tandem: A Tale of Shadows offers up something refreshingly different and is bursting with charm, however the premature ending will leave you wanting more.
Pick up the puzzles of Tandem: A Tale of Shadows from the Xbox Store