Games like Masquerada: Songs and Shadows usually try and aim for too much. They want to be a fighter, but a story. Magic, but with realism. It’s set in the past, but also the future. Many usually have too much noise, but Masquerada manages to pull out ahead.
You are Cicero. Climbing from the lower class, his rise was cut short when his brother started the revolution. Now back in Ombre (think Renaissance-era Venice), he starts off on an investigation involving the truth, powerful masks, war, and vaguely Italian things. It’s a classic “Back in town after exile” premise, but it works. Especially since you actually have a job and everything lined up.
Playing on the Switch, the controls could be confusing at times. Part of it has to do with the 45 degree angle of the playing surface. It can be awkward at times, since you have to go at odd angles to continue. It still works, and the buttons and everything lead to no issues, but just leading Cicero around can be weird.
The art and graphics are a mixed bag. The artwork is pretty good, if a bit simple when it comes to coloration. But the actual graphics….I’m torn on. They put a lot of detail in such small scale, but they also make things too clean. There are a lot of tiled buildings and such that are spotlessly clean, even during events where a big fight just took place. They hit all the marks with design and color, but they forgot about atmosphere and change. In games it’s usually not too bad but here it was a little jarring. I do have to say though - some parts look like they were done with motion capture when in reality it is animations - it's impressive.
The mechanics and gameplay are sound. I have to say, any game where one of your fighting moves is to release a dozen spectral horses out is ok by me. It ranges from that to stick fighting in standard button mashing. Otherwise it’s walking around with your group and just investigating and fighting. Worked for me.
The sound is ok. Voice work sounds like it was done in a booth, and relies on gravelly voiced people as per the norm. Sounds were standard, as was the music. I usually have a lot to say in this regard, but the word that keeps coming up is ‘normal’. It’s not bad, but it’s not special.
Throughout Masquerada there wasn’t any lag or glitches, but it was at a major expense - load screens. There were way too many, for way too long. Midway through playing, part of me wished for lag instead of encountering one of these every 5 minutes. Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has a lot to like - a unique setting, fun gameplay, and an engaging story. It is slogged down a lot by a lot of other factors, but in the end it’s a fun game with unique attacks.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.