Shadow puppetry gets a 21st century upgrade

First impressions 

I love me a good puzzle … like trying to figure out why he never called after our first date. Yessir, there’s nothing like a well constructed puzzle to keep me busy (or highly frustrated) for hours. 

Enter “Shadowmatic,” an Editor’s Choice in the App Store, and rightly so. 

Do you remember the days before TV (but after the days of pianofortes) when we used to amuse ourselves for hours with a single light, a dark room, a wall, and two fistfuls of fingers? Yup, I’m of course talking about shadow animals, which were quite the entertainment in their day. Now they’re back in cyber form. 

The Shadowmatic app brings shadow animals (and inanimate objects) to life, presenting strange 3D objects that when twisted in a certain way, suddenly reveal a recognizable shape. If any of you played The Room or The Room 2, you’ll recall similar puzzles to help you unlock doors and reveal keys. 

I had been looking for a new challenge, and this seemed an excellent place to start. I paid my $2.99 and downloaded away. 

How it works 

Thankfully, the Shadowmatic app offers a nice, clear tutorial as its introduction level, with explanations and examples. It brings up the first object, which just looks like a very expensive, yet bonkers, piece of art, and then shows you how you can turn it in different directions to cast a shadow on the wall until it resembles a familiar creature or item. For this tutorial, it will actually show you what animal you’re trying to find, and explains that the line of dots along the bottom is an indicator of whether you’re getting warm … or going in completely the wrong direction. 

It’s quite easy to pick up the concept, but it may take a bit of time to get used to how it works. Once you grasp it, however, it’s just a case of using the skills it has taught you to hit upon the puzzle solution. 

You only get the one tutorial, and then you’re off to the races. 

From the very first puzzle that you do on your own, you’ll see an “H” in the top left-hand corner. This leads you to the “Hints” screen. Of course the app isn’t going to endlessly hand these out for free. You’re given a certain amount of hint points to start with, so use those wisely, but once you eat your way through them, you’ll have to purchase some more. So the Shadowmatic app does include in-app purchases, but how much money you spend will depend on your level of patience. 

The early levels have only one object for you to twist and twirl, and depending on the time it takes you to cast the right shadow, and how much help you need, you’ll gain a certain amount of points as you go. Finish the first section, and suddenly it’ll throw two objects into the mix, where you have to manipulate each one independently, and then bring them together to complete the level. 

You may be inclined to give up at times, when no matter how much you spin what you see before you, it doesn’t seem to be cooperating. The best thing to do is go slowly, and keep your eye on that line of dots along the bottom of the screen. The minute you see one of them glow, you’ll know that you’re doing something right. 

When I played it 

As I was already familiar with this kind of puzzle (as I have gone through both The Room and The Room 2), it didn’t take me long to make my way through the tutorial, but even if it had been all a foreign concept, I would have found the instructions very clear and easy to follow. 

The graphics in this game are really beautiful, and the music isn’t unpleasant either, so it certainly wins on those fronts. I made it through about five levels before I broke down and chose to use a hint. I was then worried that all the following levels would go the same way, but no. I breezed through another four before I got stumped again, and at that time I stepped away from the app, figuring I would revisit it later with fresh eyes. 

The only small issue I had was when I was positive that I had the thing it was looking for. Everything fit perfectly, it was clearly a lizard on the wall, and yet it just wouldn’t accept it until I kept moving the pieces around by infinitessimal amounts. It was hard to see where I could possibly be wrong, but each time I would eventually move it by just enough to have the app accept my efforts. Didn’t look any different to me (said she, bitterly.) 

Final thoughts 

Don’t play this game when you’re in a bad mood – it requires a certain level of Zen – otherwise you’ll end up either burning through your hint points in the first few levels, or throwing your device across the room. 

Shadowmatic is really well designed, presents some interesting challenges, and tests your knowledge of all creatures great and small. For the price, it’s a really good deal, although how much you’ll spend on those in-app hints is yet to be seen. 

I definitely recommend it. 

  • Cost: $2.99 
  • Seller: TRIADA Studio 
  • Devices: iOS and Android 
  • Rating: E for Everyone 
  • Three and a half stars 
  • Pros: Great graphics. Very clear tutorial. Nice price. 
  • Cons: Not for those with high blood pressure. 
CL-Shadowmatic-1

Unbelievably, this blob is actually a bunny rabbit.
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