Shadow of Loot Box has no cutscenes or story dialogue, but what it lacks in terms of traditional storytelling, it makes up for with an overarching satire on common video games. Each level is prefaced with a stereotypical quote that you might see from a developer, which is then torn apart by the actual level itself.
When you boot up a new game, all your character can manage is a sluggish stroll. You don’t have the ability to interact with objects, jump or even run. All of these are skills that must be unlocked in sequential order, by gaining enough experience to level up. This is the first taste of satire that the Shadow of Loot Box gives you, poking fun at developers that tout a “flexible system of character development” by forcing you to develop basic gaming abilities in the opening level.
PREMIUM BRIDGE DLC!
It’s important to note that the game, for the most part, isn’t purposely bad; it’s deliberately ridiculing the common tropes found in the modern gaming industry. For instance; a quote about DRM not affecting performance precedes a level plagued with imposing ‘DRM popups’. They halt your progress every thirty seconds, making you wait to “reconnect to server”. These sarcastic messages and the disjointed levels that follow are the best parts of Shadow of Loot Box.
Another early level satirised the ‘exciting achievements’ found in some games. You progress by earning achievements for the most trivial things; everything from shooting and jumping a certain number of times, to buying lootboxes, to just staying still for twenty seconds! To clarify, you never pay real money in Shadow of Loot Box, you have an in-game currency that mimics microtransaction purchases. You can use this to fast track your way through certain sections by, for example, just buying the keys to a door. There’s even a place that lets you “view adverts” to gain more currency – you just watch a progress bar fill up, there aren’t any actual ads.
On top of this, each level features its own generic gaming trope – one has a rudimentary crafting system, another forces you to eat and stay warm so you don’t starve or freeze to death. One level even turns off the lights, hands you a torch and introduces ghost-like enemies that you need to ‘hide’ from, to simulate a poorly-made horror game. I won’t spoil all of these, but it’s worth noting that the Shadow of Loot Box gets significantly more interesting after the first couple of levels. This helps to keep the gameplay feel somewhat novel, without any one trope overstaying it’s welcome.
TASK 238 – WHO LEFT THESE HERE?
Shadow of the Loot Box is filled with intentionally odd or missing content, to accentuate the satire. It makes fun of typical fetch quests – one villager asked me to collect 4 mushrooms, 3 of which were at his feet. Another had me delivering endless letters to one of 3 NPCs. Both of these quest givers will stand in the same place and give an unlimited number of almost identical quests out, only changing the colour of the destination or collectible. Elsewhere, one NPC was ‘swimming’ several feet above a lake, while another level had a tree stump, a wild boar and other various objects floating weightlessly in the air.
Little references to popular games are dotted throughout Shadow of Loot Box, which is a cute touch. One enemy bears a striking resemblance to the Mimics from Dark Souls. One level features a familiar green pipe that leads to a hidden underground section. Again, I wouldn’t want to ruin all of the surprises that the game has to offer, but these are a very welcome addition to the keen-eyed observer.
404 SATISFACTION NOT FOUND
Unfortunately, the downfall of Shadow of Loot Box is that the game itself isn’t very fun to play. The movement and aiming are both unpolished. There’s no aim assist and diagonal movement when trying to strafe and line up shots at the same time just felt clunky. Shadow of Loot Box was originally released on Steam earlier this year, so it’s clear to see that the controls were built for mouse and keyboard, not dual thumbsticks.
Enemies also chase you down at a relentless pace, forcing you to backpedal constantly while firing. Combined with the lack of aim assist and unrefined movement system, this adds artificial difficulty that detracted from the experience. Even when set to Easy difficulty, the enemies still behaved like armour-plated Ferraris, capable of hunting you down while sponging multiple shotgun blasts to the face.
Music was strangely absent from various sections of the Shadow of Loot Box, though it’s possible that this was intended to make the game feel especially unfinished. Regardless of intention, it was particularly jarring to have no background music play whatsoever during the final boss battle.
When it was present, it ranged from forgetfully plain to surprisingly good; the orchestral theme featured in some of the winter levels was particularly lovely. The sound effects were basic and unimposing, not strictly detracting from the game, but certainly not adding anything of note either.
Visuals & Performance
Visually, Shadow of the Loot Box has a blocky Minecraft-like aesthetic which it upholds quite well. Though I’m not particularly a fan of the art style, nothing looked wrong or out of place. I would argue that it doesn’t look as good as Minecraft on the Switch, but it serves its purpose. It isn’t resource-heavy, so the Switch can handle it comfortably. It’s an aesthetic that can only go so far, however, and in my opinion Dragon Quest Builders and Pokemon Quest both have a more pleasing, cuter spin on the blocky graphics. Performance-wise, Shadow of Loot Box is nothing special either. There were occasional frames dropped while playing in handheld mode, but there were no issues during my playtime in docked mode.
Shadow of Loot Box does support screenshots, video capture and even cloud save backups.
I completed Shadow of Loot Box in 2-3 hours, which is quite a paltry playthrough at its current price tag. The PC version of Shadow of the Loot Box is currently $4.99/£3.99, which I feel is a much fairer price for this product. Unfortunately, porting the game to Switch has its cost, so the pricing is understandable. I would recommend waiting for a sale of 50% or greater, but I do think it’s worth playing if you get a chance. If the game were more enjoyable to control, this might be a different situation, but it’s lacking in value in its current state.
Novel evolving gameplay
Short campaign, low value