The play's the thing. Shakespeare wrote that, and while I am reasonably sure that he was not referring to video games, if he lived today he would be talking about Shadow Game, an eight-level mini-game from wmarsh.
Featuring realtime light and shadow, Shadow Game is an impressive demonstration of how far Flash games have come within the last ten years. When I was first introduced to Flash gaming, Unreal was making waves with its hardware-assisted coloured lights, and real-time light and shadow on the order of Shadow Game was still a pipe dream in John Carmack's head.
The way the game works is thus; after clicking through the disclaimer that the game is unfinished, you're given control of a spinny floaty thing that moves through either the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. Your mission: collect stars in levels strewn with light sources. Your opposition: automatic weaponry that fires on anything it can see, as well as an arsenal of laser beams which can destroy you instantly. Don't let them see you, stay in the shadows, and avoid the beams.
At its heart, Shadow Game is ultimately a proof of concept. Each of the eight levels demonstrates a mechanic that would be at home in a longer puzzle-based sim, but here it functions more as a taster than anything else. The puzzles range from physics-based to stealth to enemy pattern recognition, and although short, each level feels fresh. Ducking in and out of lit areas and outsmarting sentries is surprisingly satisfying, even on a fifth playthrough.
The simulationist nature of the game means that you can depend on the game's physics to stay constant and reward creativity. Each puzzle can be solved through the obvious solutions programmed in by the designer, but also through innovative treatments. For example, one level revolves around stacking boxes to block light sources so you can collect stars. At first, that's what I did, but eventually I found that I could trick the automatic turrets into shooting the light-generating fixtures, moving them out of the way so I could get at their prize. Unfortunately, it ends all too soon.
Shadow Game is unfinished, so once you get past the eighth level and collect all 34 stars, the game is done. There's no ending other than a screen saying "Thanks for Playing" and only limited replayability, focused around finding new ways to solve the same puzzles. But despite that, Shadow Game is a great way to spend a coffee break, and it'll leave you hoping to see the finished game for more light-based puzzles. I know I am.