“Snakes…why did it have to be snakes?” Not to mention eerie ghosts, scary secret chambers, and freaky looking fish monsters. Alawar Entertainment’s Twisted Lands: Shadow Town doesn’t pull any punches when creating a creepy, haunting environment to make your skin crawl. A casual adventure game that throws you hidden objects and other mental knots to untangle, Twisted Lands provides a surprisingly solid horror-lite experience, with just a few missteps along the way.
The initial premise is quite simple: there’s been a boat wreck, and you’ve been washed up on the shores of a mysteriously abandoned town. Your girlfriend is missing, so its up to you, you big, fabulous, hunk of a man thing, to rescue her! So naturally, this means solving lots and lots of puzzles. Of course, the further in you go, the more unsettling things you start to discover.
The touch-screen navigation system has you tapping your way through mostly static screens, often looking for useful items to interact with or stash in your inventory along the way. In addition to your inventory sack, you carry a journal for noting down useful tidbits of information, and both of these can be found along the bottom of the screen. There is also a compass icon that can be toggled on and off to have big silver arrows pointing you towards the exits, and a rechargeable hint button.
There’s no limit or penalty to using a hint, but they’re really only good for locating things you might have overlooked. If you’re looking for help with a puzzle, they’re just about useless, which is unfortunate, since those are the times you’re most likely to want a hint.
Admittedly, this is a casual game, so most of the puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but they can be extremely tedious, and the imperfect touch controls have the potential to make things a big headache. There are also instances when you need a very specific item to get the job done, even though reason suggests another item would be just as good. You have the option to skip a few of the puzzles once a countdown bar has filled, but not all the puzzles are skippable, and a couple of them may leave you gnashing your teeth in frustration as you scrounge around for an online walkthrough.
The graphics are really quite nice, very moody and atmospheric, but the dark environments combined with the small iPhone screen often leaves you with a lot of squinting and blind tapping to locate key items. There is a zoom option which helps, but it’s clear the game was originally designed for a larger screen.
Still, I was impressed by the overall depth of the game, and although the pacing of the game was not quite ideal, with a lot of repetitive traveling back and forth, the number of puzzles and overall quality was satisfactory. From the technical side, it could use a little tuning up, but all in all, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town is a juicy little thriller that will definitely satisfy casual gamers with a love for hidden objects and spooky mysteries.
Here is a video demo of the Twisted Lands: Shadow Town app on the iPhone
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