A Unity horror game in 2019? At first glance Shadows 2: Perfidia may look like a cheap pile of trash that you should definitely steer clear of, however, I recommend you throw away that line of thinking as Shadows 2 may just be the game for you.
Like many of its inspirations, the aim of the game is to escape a mysterious building, uncovering the mystery of what’s happening along the way whilst being chased by a creepy entity that in classic horror fashion aims to end your life. Here’s where the first interesting part of the experience comes into play.
At the start of the title, you are given the choice to play as one of two characters. Michael or Joe. Both characters provide the player with different locations and a different story to play, thus extending the replay value of the game since a single playthrough would only last you around 3-4 hours. Both playthroughs tell interesting stories that intrigue you enough to play through the game’s somewhat repetitive levels in order to see the conclusion.
The main gameplay loop isn’t anything new to the genre. As Joe or Michael, you have to explore various floors of the office complex in order to find useful items such as notes or keys that will help you gain access to the elevator that will bring you to the floor below where you will repeat this loop with very few things changing.
Shadows 2 borrows tropes typical of the genre such as strange notes scattered around the level in Slender-esque fashion and a flashlight that ALWAYS runs out of battery. The latter of which is one of the game’s worst mechanics as you’re left in near darkness the majority of the time and struggle to see where to go or where an item or enemy is.
The protagonist’s fear is also used as a gameplay mechanic, increasing the vibration in your controller or blurring your vision the more terrified your character is. To combat this, the player has to shut their eyes and allow the protagonist to gather his wits about him. On paper, this mechanic sounds cool and interesting. However, in execution it is barely relevant and when it is, I found it to be more of an annoyance than something adding to the horror atmosphere.
Although the game is inspired by polished classics like Layers of Fear, Shadows 2 doesn’t play anywhere near as good as its predecessors. The controls feel very clunky and outdated and the unsteady frame rate doesn’t help the game either. During my time with the game, I was met with multiple fits of frame drops and the experience felt choppy a lot of the time and to top this off I was greeted by two-game crashes in my first playthrough. Thankfully there were none in my second run of the game.
However, the gameplay isn’t all bad. Shadows 2 makes use of the Switch’s great rumble system to heighten the eerie atmosphere that the game works hard to create with its amazing use of sound effects. The sound design in this game is probably my favourite aspect as it genuinely creeped me out as I walked the halls of the abandoned office. The game uses cleverly timed laughs, footsteps and growls to catch you off guard and leave you wondering if your really want to progress further into the building.
To my disappointment, the terrifying atmosphere successfully created is immediately ruined whenever you get an actual glimpse of the monsters pursuing you. Due to the use of common Unity assets plus the general low budget look, it’s very hard for the game to actually scare you with any of its visuals as they’re all so graphically inferior to what we’re accustomed to in 2019.
Monsters look like they’ve been ripped straight out of a 2013 horror game and are almost laughably bad. Even when jumpscares are used I found myself just laughing since it’s hard to cower in fear over something that looks so cheap. I feel like if the Jaws technique of not showing the monster was used here the game would be petrifying but in its current state, the game is all atmosphere with no scares.
Despite its flaws, I can’t say that I had a bad time with Shadows 2: Perfidia, as I was genuinely interested in seeing the game through to its end and I was moderately scared along the way. You can tell that Shadows 2 is a game where the developers put some effort in trying to making something creative and a bit unique and that’s more than I can say for a lot of the horror games on the Switch right now. Plus, for the meager price of $7.99 this indie horror is definitely worth your time. Just don’t expect to be playing the next Outlast.