Co-op in Shadow Puppeteer is a very natural affair. The game was obviously designed for two players to work together. There's no character switching, just independent people moving independent avatars, plain and simple. Communication is extremely important in a game like this. Puzzles require some planning, which is easy since the game only supports local co-op. The action sequences carry with them that old co-op pitfall of requiring both players to be precise with their movements, often several in quick succession. If one person misses a jump, you both have to start over. Stay just out of shoulder-punching distance and you should be fine.
If you try to play Shadow Puppeteer solo, you're gonna have a bad time. The game just wasn't designed for a single person to complete. It's possible, of course, and the designers made sure there were no puzzles that absolutely required two people, but it's frustrating if you don't have a partner. If you're playing with a gamepad, for example, you'll use the left analog stick to move the real boy, the right to move shadow boy, and the corresponding triggers to jump each character on their own. Simple puzzles like timing a lever press for the other character to ride a platform can get tricky since you have to monitor two parts of the screen at the same time. And when you toss in things like shadow cats chasing one character, it's very easy to want to set the controller down and stare out the window moodily.
The world of Shadow Puppeteer is built with minimalism in mind, but it's the sort of artistic minimalism that gives the game an extra ounce of likeability. The story is told through visuals alone. No spoken dialogue or boxes of text to read, which I, personally, always appreciate. The game even teaches you how to play without ridiculous HEY, LISTEN! tips and tricks. You learn as you play with carefully constructed puzzles that build your skills one by one. This shows a lot of attention to puzzle design and gameplay experience, and it continues to shine even later in the game.
Shadow Puppeteer is built with a lot of care. It suffers the tiniest bit of an identity crisis when it swings back and forth between its puzzle sequences and action sequences, but otherwise it's smartly paced and extremely rewarding. Very few bells or whistles, just straightforward cooperative gaming. If you can get a friend over for some quality shadow time, you're set for several hours of solid puzzle-platforming action. If you can't get a friend over, go out and make more friends, then head back and give Shadow Puppeteer a look. It's worth it.
The Co-Op Experience: Two players, experiencing the world in different ways, must learn to work together and combine their different abilities.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.