PAX Aus 2017: Projection is destined to leave others in the shadows

Feature article

Projection was perhaps the most beautiful game at PAX Aus 2017 and held a deserving place in the Indie Showcase.

What may first appear to be a simple platformer at first glance, this is an intricately designed game by Sydney-based indie developer Shadowplay Studios.

“Projection shows that even new technology can embrace an ancient art”

You control the adventures of a girl named Greta, and the entire game is a shadow puppet production. Shadow puppetry is several thousand years old, and is thought to have originated in India and China.  The plays were often of folk tales and legends and have become less popular in the advent of new technologies.

Projection shows that even new technology can embrace an ancient art.

projection no shadow bridge

Greta moves just like a shadow puppet would, and even has a stick to add to its authenticity. As well as controlling your character like in any other platform game, you also have power over the direction of the light source, and it is the shadows that are cast from objects that become the platforms allowing Greta to proceed. This is a simple concept that leads to quite a challenging game and your ability to progress is directly related to how well you learn how to control those shadows.

projection with shadow bridge

The demo I played was based on Indonesian shadow puppetry and other worlds include shadow puppet designs from areas including China and Britain.  There is a definite learning curve to this game, but after only a few minutes of gameplay I was able both move and focus my light in a less awkward fashion.  Many of the shadow projections you will create will be purely by chance and this adds to the gameplay – it is difficult to predict how each stage will progress and this keeps your mind focused.

For those who really want a challenge and potentially lose friends, you can play this game in a two-player mode, with one controlling the character, and the other the light source.

This is very much a game built from the visual aesthetic perspective with designer Michael Chu first gathering inspiration by making shadows on walls.  Both beautiful to watch, and challenging to play, this game indeed holds promise.  Perhaps most importantly, this is an educational game.  Many younger gamers may not even know of shadow puppetry anymore as a performance art form, and this is both a journey through different cultures as well as the game’s own story.

Projection is due for release in the first half of 2018 ambitiously on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.  The Switch version will allow players to control the light source through the touch screen.

You need to see this game in action to understand its simple beauty, so check out the trailer below: