Shadow puppets take centre stage in the gorgeous Sydney-made platformer Projection
Explore the history of shadow puppet theatre in this striking puzzle platformer.
In our treks across the PAX Australia show floor this weekend, we've noticed a running theme among many of the indie games, especially those heralding from right here in Australia. An increasing number of games are setting out to tell more personal stories that draw from the lives and experiences of their creators. One such game is Projection, a 2D puzzle platformer from Shadowplay Studios that earned its place as part of the PAX Indie Showcase this year. We had a chance to speak with the game's narrative director and level designer Jared Hahn on the inspirations for the striking game and how it brings together multiple cultures from around the world.
In Projection, you take on the roles of both the young girl Greta and a small orb of light. Styled after shadow puppet theatres from around the world, the stages in Projection are built out of contrasting shadows that play more of a role than simply pretty window dressing. By moving the orb of light around the stage, you can change the way shadows are cast to help Greta find her way forward. Not only can shadows form platforms for Greta to cross otherwise impassable gaps, they can be used to push things, break things and otherwise manipulate the environment to solve the game's puzzles.
It's a novel mechanic, but what really stood out to us is how much emphasis the game places on the cultural elements of its inspiration. Every member of the development team hails from a cultural background that involved shadow puppets, and these cultures find their way into the game as the locations young Greta travels to through the course of her adventure. From Indonesia and China to Turkey and Victorian-era London, the locations all resonate keenly with the development team and their cultural heritage.
"It's really interesting to see the research and our own culture put into this," Jared told us.
It's this focus on cultural representation and exploration, as much as the distinct light and shadow mechanics, that has us most interested in Projection. We're not the only ones either, as PAX attendees have taken quite a shine to the game, too. People stopping by the booth were particularly interested in Projection for how it reminded them of their childhood and the culture they grew up with.
"People are coming by and telling us about things they had as a kid, seeing things as a kid, all this cool stuff that they grew up with and read recently," Jared told us. "Kids are getting into it, and people that we wouldn’t expect. Mums say "I like the look of that." I heard someone walking with their kids who stopped and said "I like that." That's really cool."
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