Projection is easily a best in show kind of indie that takes something that seems like you’ve seen in a side scrolling 2D game before, and injects enough artistic style and innovative gameplay that it feels as though it could quickly overshadow the likes of Limbo and Inside in the genre of moody platformers.
You play as a small girl, as portrayed by a shadow puppet, as is the world around her, and the core movement is based upon simple jumping and item interaction, but the core aspect is controlling her movement with the left stick, and with the right, a small, bright orb of light that follows her along the journey. The orb, controlled by the player about the map, casts shadows depending on the direction which it is facing, to make new paths of movement for the girl that would never exist otherwise, as only the stark, dark lines of the world are ones that she can physically interact with.
We played the game at PAX East on the Nintendo Switch, and the controls are far less obtuse than it seems on paper. A visual representation is available below in the reveal trailer for the title.
Jared: My name is Jared Hahn and I am a game designer and I do the story and the level and puzzle design on Projection.
Projection is a shadow puppet platformer where you’re projecting light to cast shadows. The shadows are physical, so you can either walk along them or use them to push things like physics puzzles.
Evan: What was the inspiration that brought this platforming innovation “to light” as it were?
Jared: Our lead designer, Michael, has a very low ceiling in his house. It has a light that you can use to cast shadows very easily on the walls, which made him think we could make a game out of this. We have another friend, the artist on this project, Yosha, came up with the idea for us to use shadow puppets because obviously shadows, and shadow puppets, that’s a logical connection. There were a couple of early prototypes that didn’t have the same kind of light controls you see now, which will never see the light of day.
Evan: Was that a light pun?
Jared: It works on multiple levels.
Evan: many levels.
Jared: So, eventually we got to where we are today through a bit of iteration.
Evan: What is your background in design and games building?
Jared: I’ve done a few mobile games. I’m a designer by nature. Yosha is an artist who has worked on quite a lot of other projects that have come out in Sydney, including one fighting game with those car yard inflatable men. And Michael has a lot of prototypes, and has done a lot of smaller games.
Evan: You said that you got funding for this game in Australia, how was it getting this game off the ground?
Jared: It was kind of Michael’s pet project he was working on in GameMaker. And then we had another team from Sydney approach us and say they would like to work with us. So that team was handling the code and a lot of the programing for us. And then we had another one of the successful studios in Sydney called Blowfish that we approached and asked if they wanted to publish us and they said “Yeah, why not!” and now they’re handling all of the porting to all the platforms because they have experience with that.
Evan: Have you found it easy to get the game on all those different platforms?
Jared: Yeah! We have it running on Xbox and Switch here. And in PAX Australia we had it running on PS4. We haven’t had any real problems with any of them.
Evan: What are some games that may have had an impact on you guys and that you see shine through in this? … Sorry, another accidental pun.
Jared: We’ve all played a lot of platformers so that’s the obvious connection to Limbo. I’ve played a lot of platformers too, but there’s not a lot out there with this type of shadow mechanics. So, we didn’t really have a whole lot to draw from for this. But people have pointed out games like Contrast, which we haven’t played but we can see why.
Evan: What has been the best feedback you’ve been getting going to both PAX Australia and PAX East? Is this your first time in Boston?
Jared: This is my first time in Boston.
Evan: That’s cool.
Jared: Yes, very. Literally cool. A lot of people love the art style of the game. It has an instant pull for a lot of people, especially with people who are used to traditional art styles. A lot of people tell us they grew up with this art style or that it looks cool.
Evan: It sets off a tinge of nostalgia, it feels very traditional to maybe all kinds of cultural background.
Jared: Yes, it’s very childlike as well. Even people who don’t like puzzle games can find something they like about it. So that’s been really cool, hearing people say that it’s not really their type of game, but they love a certain aspect about it.
Evan: When are you guys shooting for launch?
Jared: We’re shooting for launch in Quarter 1 of next year for all platforms at the same time, thanks to our publisher, Blowfish who has done this sort of thing before.
updates on the title can be found at www.shadowplaystudios.com