Shadowmatic (iOS) review: This well-designed puzzle game begs for more challenge

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The Good Shadowmatic is a unique puzzle game that scores points for originality. The touchscreen controls are precise and intuitive.

The Bad Some levels are too easy, making both experienced and novice players alike bored before the going gets good.

The Bottom Line Shadowmatic is worth the pocket change for its unique perspective, but a better progression of difficulty would make it a more engaging play.


8.1 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 8
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 9

Shadowmatic (iOS) casts you back to the days of creating shadow shapes on your wall with your hands. In this reimagining, you rotate abstract shapes with the goal of creating a familiar silhouette, like an elephant or a rubber duck.

Full of special touches, such as the parallax effects and themed levels, Shadowmatic is engaging and fun. It's no wonder this one is climbing to the top of the charts. For the most part, there are plenty of hidden extras to keep you engaged after you beat a level. However, some levels are remarkably easy, making the game go by faster than I'd like.

Still, it's worth the modest cost: $2.99 in the US, £2.29 in the UK and AU$3.79 in Australia.

Light and dark design

Shadows and light are everywhere in the game, from the level map screen to the levels themselves. That gives the game a dark and moody design that's still playful.

The game levels are divided into nine rooms, each with a theme, such as nautical or children's toys. The room's background and the textures of the shapes reflect the theme, and that helps clue you into what kind of shadow you need to create.

Shadowmatic's levels are grouped by theme. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Those nine rooms are further divided into paths on the map screen, and you'll often reach a fork where you need to decide where to go next. With some paths, you can only go so far before the game stops your progress and you'll need to play levels on a different path to continue. I found it really confusing that I couldn't just keep going, and unfortunately, the game doesn't offer any explanation why you can't. It will simply tell you that you cannot play the level.

Shadowmatic uses parallax effects so that when you tilt your phone you can see parts of the game shift on the screen. This is most obvious on the map screen, where the boxes that represent each level will animate and cast different shadows. The parallax effects also add pizzaz to in the individual levels, but it doesn't affect how you play the game.

Cast a shadow

The point of the game is to rotate one or more abstract shapes to create a shadow of a familiar silhouette. Some of the shapes look like the finished shadow when you first look at them, but most are nonsensical and don't offer any clues.

You swipe with one finger to spin a shape around on its axis and swipe with two fingers to rotate it in the space, which you'll often need to do to get the correct shape. The controls are very precise and responsive, which made the game a breeze to play.

The object of the game is to twist and turn shapes to cast shadows of familiar objects. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Some levels are very easy, requiring just a few twists and turns, while others are far more complex, especially those that give you multiple items to manipulate. For those, you can toggle between pieces with a button at the bottom left and move the two (or three) objects closer or farther apart. The game does a great job of explaining the controls, though it does take some practice to get the shapes to move the way you want them to.

The progress bar at the bottom tells you how close you are to getting the correct shadow; the more dots, the closer you are. For some shadows you'll need to make very small movements to finish the level, while others you can get the shadows close to the finished shape and the game will complete it for you.

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