As a reviewer, I try not to grade on a curve or anything. I review AAA games like Triangle Strategy with the same overall feeling as I do lesser projects like Chocobo GP or some of the various indie titles, like Eastward. That being said, it is very difficult not to grant this particular game some sort of curve.
Shredded Secrets is by no means a masterpiece of gaming. It’s not going to reinvent the way we approach a game, and its flaws are fairly readily apparent. The style feels a little stiff, looking almost more like a flash game than something more comprehensive. The gameplay feels very simple. If anything, it reminded me of some of the old Super Nintendo games I grew up on, for better or for worse.
Still, this game has a few things going for it that those never had. The first and most obvious shows in that featured image: this was made by a group of young women.
Girls Make Games, the creative force behind this, is responsible for essentially running programming and game making camps for various girls that are interested. Shredded Secrets is one of their projects, and is therefore about as indie as indie can get. There’s something almost uplifting about playing this, like you’re looking a child’s school project.
However, I find it necessary to move beyond that. Yes, this game is simplistic, and charming in its aesthetic and appeal. Yes, buying the game is likely supporting a good cause. And yes, the game is pretty low priced (around $5), so it’s not going to break the bank. But Shredded Secrets is also a game with a strong emotional core, one that made me tear up a little while playing it, and I am a far cry from the target audience.
Shredded Secrets is a platforming game where you control one of four different characters in a pretty simplistic stage. One button will allow your character to jump, while another activates the character’s unique special ability. The goal is to journey from the left side of the screen to the school’s exit on the right, collecting various items that represent the most important thing in that particular character’s life.
The game forces you to start as Isabella. She’s the one up top there with the glasses and vibrant hair. As we go through her stage, we’re treated to some voice acting that sound very much like they tapped another camper or even one of the young programmers. This does not sound professional, and for me, that actually adds to it. It feels like we’re listening in on a girl’s thoughts.
We learn that Isabella is bullied, particularly by a student named Oakley. The game does a marvelous job presenting this, as Oakley starts becoming a reoccurring obstacle for Isabella. At one point she claims that it feels like he’s everywhere, uniquely targeting her, and the game responds by spewing a seemingly infinite number of Oakleys to get her.
Isabella learns to deflect the bullying, and she rallies together others who have been bullied to report Oakley.
Then we get to play as Oakley, which is one of the second major good moves this game makes. We see things from his perspective, and I don’t want to fully spoil it, but the game again does some interesting things, and it builds on the common idea that bullies have something going on in their own lives.
Each of the other two characters has their own story as well: Taylor feels he’s constantly failing and can’t measure up to his sister, while London is dealing with depression while trying to live up to her desire to help students and be a good teacher .That last struck me in particular, because I work at a school and have been a teacher for some time. It’s interesting that the developers opted to include that angle as well: it makes this feel like a whole picture.
it also builds on their overall narrative, which, again, is simple, but so beautifully done.
Shredded Secrets isn’t a particularly long game; it’s not overly hard and a lot of its mechanics feel simple. To be sure, they’ve mixed things up: each character has a unique ability, and each character has their unique struggles. But there’s this overall message that everyone is fighting and struggling with something, and it’s one that, yes, may be played out, but is always worth hearing.
there was thought and care put into this game. It’s not perfect, but it’s got a beautiful message. Plus it’s done by some talented people: whoever made this shows real promise. This feels like the rough games that some of the more talented game designers would go on to make. I found it via a suggested link in Facebook of all things, and I strongly encourage others to go out and experience it. For five dollars, it’ll last about as long as a movie and incorporates some of the best parts of gaming.
8 the game itself is rough and could use more length or variety, but the charming graphics and heartfelt story make it an experience well worth remembering.