Okugi Studio’s “Shad’O” is a tower defense game pitting players against waves of monsters in the hopes of recovering the memories of a child named William.
The entire experience is presented as a story about a boy trying to make sense of his own thoughts. In an effort to clear his mind, he enlists the help of companions to defend against nightmares that seek to keep his memories locked away forever.
These companions, which feature mundane names like “Shooter,” “Puncher,” and “Rainbow”, are static defenses which the player will use to defend against waves of slowly moving enemies. Fans of the tower defense genre will be right at home with “Shad’O,” as the game only distinguishes itself in subtle ways.
Players collect “luminous” resource, which are used to purchase companions for placement around a fixed track enemies follow. The goal is to prevent these enemies from reaching the end of the track by destroying them with turrets that shoot projectiles or impart negative effects on the passing monsters.
Players are also given access to a spell book of 10 different spells, which serve as basic purposes such as healing damaged companions or giving the player extra resources. Even with the fairly large selection of companions and spells available, “Shad’O” feels like every other tower defense game, and this is not a good thing. Levels are repetitive, and many of the companions seem useless and redundant. Although the game is playable and clearly polished, it is too easy to label it as just another tower defense game.
William’s story is one of the few things making the game uniquely interesting. Each level unlocks a new picture which eventually leads to a boss battle, where a series of memories are revealed in a cut scene. This is a story about a lost boy who does not know what he is looking for, or how he got lost in the first place, and it is remarkably well put together. The ending makes for a satisfying conclusion to a story that leaves players guessing throughout.
“Shad’O” makes up for its stale gameplay with its refreshing, believable plotline. This is a tower defense game through and through, and players familiar with the genre will not be amazed by what is offered here. Despite the inclusion of “Special Battles”, which impose strict limitations on the placement and usage of companions, this is an incredibly repetitive game. Most levels can be beaten with only a few of the companions, and the spells and enemies are not very interesting. “Shad’O” makes up for its shortcomings with an undeniably intriguing story taking place in a world rarely explored in video games: the memories and nightmares of childhood.