The King in the Shades by sp1r1t_d1tch_creations, started off with me playing a man who wakes up in the middle of the woods. I then found a mysterious note nailed to a tree about a “contract” and someone being an “imperfect vessel.” Following a path, I stumble across a lived-in but unsettling empty house.
Cautiously, I enter the two-story house, greeted by a handful of rooms ripe for exploration. Within, discoveries await, alongside lurking enemies to confront. Locked doors and a puzzle-guarded safe add to the intrigue. While the space sets an ideal stage for a horror game, it remains within the confines of a typical house.
The house could have used more notes to build up the story or maybe some more complex design to make the space more interesting to explore. This means that a lot of this demo is very combat-focused. The game could have been more engaging with fewer enemies and more of a focus on exploration, like if I was learning more about the game’s lore or the house itself.
Locked, Loaded, and Living on a Prayer
The only way to survive in this game is to shoot. Enemies were plentiful, and ammo was scarce. Which is a combination that made the whole experience difficult. Healing items were limited as well. This seemed to be on purpose to make the game challenging. This is not an issue, but the game needed to balance its mechanics to make the combat more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, there is no viable other option in combat. In other similar games of the genre, the opportunity to run away from enemies is present. They also featured some melee weapons in case you ran low on ammo. But in this game, these options are not present. It also makes enemy avoidance difficult because they are swift and will follow you relentlessly. This coupled with the finite ammo, made for a frustrating experience.
Puzzles and Peculiarities
Besides combat, I did some light puzzle-solving. The game features the standard fare of combining items, unlocking things, or finding the right number combination. This does help mix up the gameplay, meaning you’ll be exploring everything around the house. But things are pretty straightforward in this demo. I could only pick up things if they had some use. It would also indicate items that were of no further use.
When starting the demo, there is also an option to choose the puzzle difficulty. The puzzle-solving aspect of the game was enjoyable enough to keep things from feeling too monotonous.
Every time I died, I would respawn with all the items I had when I died. The unfortunate thing was that there was no way to get more ammo. I had a finite number of bullets. Since there is no melee option, several playthroughs ended in me watching my character die. If there was a manual save system in place, some interest could be derived from planning out where to go first and avoiding enemies as much as possible.
I wonder if this system is in place just for the demo or if it’s planned for the full release. However, this system made the overall experience less fun.
The woods themselves had a nice unsettling fog in the distance. Rooms were appropriately dark and uninviting, enhanced by the creepy reverb-heavy low synths and ethereal chimes. taken together, these creative elements did a great job of building the mystery and sense of unease to the experience.
The King in the Shades demo could use much refining. There are several issues I had with the game. I enjoyed the little exploration there was and the game’s fantastic atmosphere. I wish that the investigation was more rewarding and the combat was enjoyable.
Hopefully, the full release will build on this excellent atmospheric foundation and mold it into a great horror game experience. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one shapes up.
The King in the Shades demo is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for The King in the Shades below: