Kim’s selection for best of EGX 2015 is a game from a genre that she previously disliked! What is it about ShadowHand by Grey Alien Games that makes it so good?
|Developer:||Grey Alien Games|
|Release date:||To be announced|
|PEGI rating:||Not listed|
|More information:||Official website|
As I’ve written previously, I’ll give most video games a try at least once but the card battle genre is something I don’t usually enjoy. I understand the attraction slightly more when playing a physical game around a table with a bunch of friends but even then, Cards Against Humanity is the only thing I’ve ever really liked. However, after receiving an invitation to play Guild of Dungeoneering by Gambrinous when I attended the Rezzed expo back in March and reluctantly accepting, I slowly began to overcome my aversion to anything the genre.
Since then I’ve dipped in and out of the title a number of times, finding it a great way pass the time if I have an hour to spare in the evenings after work. But I’ll admit that it hasn’t done enough to make me purchase any further card games or even add them to my Steam wishlist. A week before the EGX event at the NEC in Birmingham, Regency Solitaire appeared in my Steam queue and I immediately passed it by; and when we received a press release announcing that narrative-driven card game ShadowHand would be playable at the expo, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t give it a second thought.
But all that changed when Ben dragged me over to Grey Alien Games’ stand and I stepped into the shoes of the beguiling Lady Darkmoor, a young aristocrat who masquerades a notorious highwaywoman in late 18th century England. Fleeing a crime scene and forced to act under the cover of darkness, she’ll stop at nothing to retrieve an incriminating family jewel and safeguard a woman she holds dear in doing so. Combining a historical visual novel with collectable card gaming, ShadowHand’s story spans twenty chapters set in atmospheric locations including stormy coastlines, mysterious woods and gloomy manors.
It sounds simple but provides plenty of challenge, particularly in later levels when you’re able to use your turns for combat.
Players must dodge the law and brawl with outlaws in turn-based combat, gaining experience to customise their character and collect new weapons, gear and loot. The gameplay was surprising easy to pick up: you’re presented with a card, and the aim of the game is to clear a ‘pyramid’ by selecting cards which are either one higher or lower in value. It sounds simple but provides plenty of challenge, particularly when you’re able to use your turns for combat in later levels and plan wisely to collect new weaponry and abilities.
The thing that most stood about for me about ShadowHand was its setting and representation of female characters. I wasn’t sold on Regency Solitaire when it appeared on Steam because I’m not a fan of romantic tales or Jane Austen; but a story about a kickass highwaywoman, which we agreed was much more original than a female pirate when we spoke to owner Jake Birkett, is something I can definitely get on-board with. He also revealed that a cross-dressing character will appear later on in the game and I applaud the guys at Grey Alien for their refreshing approach.
As advised in an announcement on their website: “Regency Solitaire is basically a romance, but ShadowHand is more of a whodunit / adventure plot. Our female protagonist this time is not looking for love or to sort out her family debt issues. She is an heiress with a complicated family background. The victim of a heist where her close female companion vanishes, Lady Darkmoor is prepared to take matters into her own hands – including duelling and breaking the law – to get to the truth.”
Something else that the team deserve to be commended for is their research into the 18th century. Most women at the time were strictly controlled by the men in the lives but some of them did get up to remarkable things: aristocrats acted scandalously and were often the subject of gossip, but a few managed to weather the storm and get on with their life nonetheless. With regard to Lady Darkmoor’s attire, designer Helen Carmichael decided that she wouldn’t have been bothered to wear a corset and designed her outfits accordingly – after her own tests proved that you aren’t able to get out of one in a hurry and without assistance!
Grey Alien Games is based in Dorset, UK and has been making downloadable PC and Mac games that are suitable for the whole family since 2004, with their catalogue also including casual titles such as Spooky Bonus, Fairway Solitaire and Unwell Mel. The idea for ShadowHand actually came from Regency Solitaire: one of the older characters, Lady Fleetwood, hints at earlier adventures in her youth so it looks like we may now find up what she got up to some forty years earlier.
So why is ShadowHand my ‘best of EGX 2015’? Any title which can convert me to a new genre and leave me wanting more is definitely worthy of a mention in my book; and Jake and Helen are as awesome as their new game, happily posing for pictures in their costumes and answering all of our questions at the expo. Their project is due to be released in early 2016 and it’s one I’m going to be keeping my eyes open for.