Shardlands (universal) by Breach Entertainment is a modern game, but only in appearance. Without a scoring system, a skill tree, or consumable IAP’s scattered throughout, Shardlands reminds me of older games, where the focus was challenging the player while engaging them in a unique audio/visual experience.
It’s a little hard to decipher the story in Shardlands at times, but one thing is clear: navigating it’s alien world is no easy challenge for our protagonist Dawn, who has the ability to manipulate platforms while navigating the twisted, intertwining pathways of each level. The goal is to collect all the orbs, earning shards of an ancient key along the way. These shards are used to unlock other areas in the game, eventually unlocking the door to find a way home – the ultimate goal.
Moving around is down with a touch anywhere on the 3D environment, using various drags and swipes to move around the specific pathways of each puzzle segment. There are monsters to avoid, which can only be defeated by leading them into a protective ‘beacon’ used as quasi-checkpoints in each of the 20+ stages. The puzzles themselves can be a little obvious at times to solve, but later areas require a balance of carefully planned strategy and timed movements around the screen, and the action really takes off.
With a story line that feels too transparent at times, creating an atmosphere falls on the game’s audio and visual package, which are definitely up to the task. The soundtrack is absolutely terrific, and combines with the moody lighting and color schemes of each stage to give the game a desolate, mysterious feel.
Games like Shardlands will sometimes get overlooked in the App Store, more challenging and focused than the average physics puzzler or endless runner releasing on a weekly basis. But it’s definitely not a game to be missed for serious puzzle fans, a game that balances gameplay and atmosphere to create a wholly enjoyable gaming experience.