One of my favourite game franchises growing up, despite the wacky storyline, was Metal Gear Solid. The combination of gun-toting action with heart-pulsing stealth made my day - to the point that I got pretty good at avoiding enemies in video games, regardless of the genre. (My skills have atrophied over the years, sad to say.)
Shadowess is a nice reflection of my love, with one caveat - no more guns. This is sneaking, pure and simple, and consequently it's both really, REALLY hard, and bloody fun.
Shadowess is a game that seems to begin without much of a plot, though it develops with time. You play as a free-floating smiley without a smile - and that lack seems to piss it off something fierce. You must run through a series of blackened areas, patrolled by light-bearing dots, and reach exit portals on the opposite sides of the rooms, often contending with small mazes in the process.
So, yeah, it's a bird's eye view espionage game. You can't get caught. Your little guy can't get touched by the enemy without going belly-up in an instant, and every little move can immediately spell your doom. Have fun!
My only complaint? Typos. A fair number of 'em, too. Some quick editing would help.
The majority of Shadowess is spent zipping about with either the arrow controls or WASD. Very simple, and quite responsive, to boot - your character can really motor when it wants. The ability to use arrows or WASD is nice.
That said, I highly recommend you get used to WASD from the start, because eventually you'll incorporate the mouse into your sneaking efforts. The combination is good, and though it does increase the challenge it also expands your options. Overall, no complaints, other than a teensy bit of floating on some movements, and I imagine this was deliberate to increase the challenge. (You are urged to have well-polished keyboarding skills at the beginning, after all.)
The sprites and environments in Shadowess are exceedingly simple in nature. Your character is nothing more than a circle and two little dots for eyes, and your enemies are coloured dots. Doesn't get much more basic than that.
What brings Shadowess to life is light. Light plays a massive role in character detection, and so it has a tendency to ebb and flow against objects in a very natural, almost frightening way (since getting caught in the light often means the end of the road). Play the game and you'll see that light is, more than anything else, your enemy.
Shadowess doesn't really rely on music. Rather it boasts an ambient track of tense noises that will keep you consistently on your toes, even if they are repetitive. I also appreciated the range of sound effects as you interact with your environment - a simple bump, for example, usually results in a lost level, bringing a whole new meaning to what's otherwise an everyday occurrence.
Shadowess is NOT for espionage gaming beginners, especially if said beginners are impatient or fidgety. The sensitivity of the environment makes almost every level in the game a severe challenge, as the movement of light and your ability to avoid objects both play a role in survival. If you prefer mad dashes to calculated movements, you'll never beat Shadowess.
I should point out, that said, that you CAN run your way through some of the levels, pursued by bad guys, and make it to the exit. Sometimes that may seem like the preferred tactic. The game runs on a star-based rating system, however, and every time you're spotted you lose a star - which means that a maximum scores requires no detections. If you thought Shadowess was difficult before, go for perfect. It's damn near impossible unless you're a master sneak.
Shadowess is a great game. It's the ultimate way to practice for other tactical espionage games, as it's probably more difficult than any of 'em. Highly recommended - and if you can beat the thing, let me know. I could not.