There were two excellent games at PAX East this year with the same general aesthetic: shadow puppets. I found this quite intriguing. They each are of very different genres and handle themselves completely differently mechanically, but I felt like they deserved their own special spotlights to highlight this, even though they both could have found a way into the Party and Puzzle Compilation Articles.
Shadow Fencer Theatre is the competitive awkward physics sword fighting game set in the world of shadow puppets. Take center stage with a unique cast of characters and make your way to becoming the Grandmaster of the theatre. Perform solo or battle a friend in a veritable variety show of game modes and skits. Whether you are a one-puppet show or sharing the stage, above all else, show the world you are the best performer on the shadowy screen.
First and foremost, Shadow Fencer Theatre has absolutely nailed the look of the shadow puppetry aesthetic. Played for comedy, you can see hands moving in the background, and little wires and ropes holding up characters and scenery. Likewise, the game’s sound effect all sound like they’re being created by someone ducked down behind the screen in front of you. I found this hilarious, and it instantly endeared the game to me.
Shadow Fencer Theatre initially started as a game jam creation, and like so many great indie games, grew from there. The basic premise is quite simple: two shadow puppets duel, winning a round if the dismember or wound the opponent before they themselves are wounded. Best of three wins the match.
The controls are INCREDIBLY random, with physics working overtime to turn the duel not into a feat of skill, but more a backyard battle of two insane windmills. What the controls lack in finesse they make up for in pure fun. It is utterly hilarious to watch two of the huge cast of characters available wildly bob back and forth, trying desperately to exert some control over their weapons.
You can throw your weapon, which is certainly the high-risk, high-reward option, as once you’ve sent it spinning you can’t really get it back. As I played a few matches of the game, I did start to feel myself getting a little bit of skill with the controls, being able to reliably jab in the general direction I wanted, so perhaps practice might make perfect.
Shadow Fencer Theatre has a HUGE variety of game modes to explore, from soccer matches, to throwing challenges, to a whole mess of other mini-games, so there’s quite a bit of content to puppet your way through.