After falling overboard while out at sea with his fiancée, Angel, amateur treasure hunter Mark finds himself washed ashore a dreary island shrouded in fog. Angel is missing and so are the townspeople, but that doesn't mean Mark's alone... Twisted Lands: Shadow Town is a hidden-object adventure title from Alawar Games that represents the start of a new series and a foray into the horror genre. While it might not actually be very scary, it still offers up a solid evening's entertainment. As Mark, you'll explore the strange town you find yourself stranded in searching for Angel. You won't find answers to all of your questions, but you will find a very dark place with a lot of very big secrets to explore.
Gameplay is simple and easy to pick up. Areas you can interact with will sparkle, and hidden-object scenes will sparkle even more. While you'll pick up a lot of items just wandering around, most important things will need to be grabbed from hidden-object scenes. Fortunately, Mark's journal keeps track of all the clues and points of interest you come across. Even more helpful, if you click the hint button during normal gameplay, it will actually point you in the direction you need to go to advance the story; immensely helpful for when you're stuck, but don't want more than a nudge.
Analysis: Although it's trying to be, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town actually isn't that scary. It has an interesting story, but the overall vibe winds up a bit less "The Turning of the Screw" and a bit more "Tales From the Darkside". That's not necessarily a bad thing; there's a certain pleasure you can get from exploring strange places with heavily weird and dramatic storylines that Shadow Town delivers. I was genuinely interested in finding out what was going on, and all the little clues and journals only served to entice me more. The thing is, the writing is just a bit too awkward and stiff to really carry the eerie vibe and make the whole experience complete.
Fortunately, the game looks great. While the character models have a little bit of that thousand yard stare going on, the environments are beautiful, richly detailed, and full of atmosphere. There are a lot of objects you can fiddle with, even though they don't do anything, and Mark has something to say about most objects you'll click on. It's a lot of small detail work that manages to make the experience more immersive and the town feel like a real place.
Shadow Town's biggest problem for some players may actually be the lack of direction. You never really want to feel like a game is patronizing you, but at the same time you shouldn't ever feel like you're stumbling around blind either. To be fair, there are generally a lot of clues as to where you should go next, but it also feels like there is far too much running around so that the experience isn't as tight as it should be, especially since the game enjoys making you run all the way across town and back just to pick up one item you suddenly need to proceed. Fortunately, thanks to the game's wonderful hint system it's impossible to get stymied, and if you feel like puzzling things out on your own, the journal will probably provide the clues you need if you look hard enough.
The game is a little on the short side, and will probably run you between three and four hours to play. Twisted Lands: Shadow Town tried to swing for the fences with a tale of horror, and ultimately falls short of really achieving greatness. But what's there is still a solid and thoroughly enjoyable title that shows a lot of promise for the continuance of the series. If what you want is something fun and interesting, Shadow Town provides a weird and involving mystery that will keep you hooked until the end. Hopefully, more questions will be answered in subsequent titles. Until then, I'm just going to assume a wizard did it. A fishy one.