Schim

Preview: SCHiM Is An Incredibly Unique Platformer

Sometimes, a new title comes along that entirely upends expectations, and SCHiM does that for platformers. It’s incredibly unique and creative, turning the shadows strewn about each neighbourhood into pathways to the goal. Each frame looks like a painting, with bright watercolours and thin line work creating a vivid display. It reminds me of Journey, as the story is told with no dialogue, instead relying on the soundscape, the geography, and the characters within it to spin a narrative. Developers Ewoud van der Werf and Nils Slijkerman are on to something beautifully original here.

A Hop Down Memory Lane

SCHiM‘s demo starts with setting up the narrative framework, taking you through decades of the primary human’s life in minutes and going from childhood, running around carefree in backyards and biking around the neighbourhood, to an incredibly effective walk down the following significant milestones in his life. Continuing down a street where each tree is a portal to a few years in the future, we watch him grow up, go to school, graduate, get a job, and get laid off within a few moments. The schim living in his shadow is part of the entire experience, witnessing life as it happens. A schim is a thing’s soul or spirit, personified here by a bit of a frog-like creature. What’s brilliant about this segment is the emotion SCHiM manages to draw out of the player, connecting to the human and the schim living in his shadow. Sometimes, his schim will get stuck elsewhere, needing to return to him. You can also interact with objects, using the shadows of traffic lights to cross the road to hit the button on the other side, allowing the human to cross and catch up. It’s beautifully done, making the next turn even more impactful.

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On the worst day of our human life, following what seems like a breakup, being laid off, and missing the bus, the schism separates from their human. It’s emotional, with nothing being said, but you feel the panic from the human, closely linked to the schim, to get back home. This is where SCHiM takes off, as the next handful of levels are filled with creative platforming and beautiful frames.

Schim Sojourn

The gameplay in SCHiM is simple but incredibly effective. The schim can traverse from shadow to shadow, hopping from one to another to make their way through a city section. Turning the screen left and right will shift the screen, showing new perspectives and shadows and opening up new spaces to hop to. You can interact with specific pieces of the environment to help, from a sign launching the schim in the air to turning on a Vespa’s lights to create a new shadow. While the first few levels are a chill and fun experience to move through, the night levels that follow up the difficulty.

Traversing the Shadow Land

Reaching what seems to be a dead end may seem like the wrong way until a passerby on a bike offers a new shadow to bring you further down the road. Hitting a fusebox to turn on the lights across the street opens up a litany of new shadows to move through. SCHiM does a fantastic job of creating a toy box in each part of the city, not always telling you what you can interact with but allowing the player to find out on their own. It’s incredibly creative and made me curious about each new level, genuinely making me sad at the point the demo ended and there wasn’t more to play. I’m excited for the launch to see what’s around each new corner.

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Each Frame A Painting

Graphically, SCHiM is one of the most visually striking games I’ve ever seen. Each area is bathed in a different colour, creating and setting a mood for each section. Childhood may be a mix of yellows, oranges, and anything in between, with thin linework that creates a ton of personality despite its simple look. Nighttime brings in deep purples and blues, with fewer humans walking around, bringing in a sleepy and melancholic vibe. The soundtrack elevates the experience further, with Lo-fi and chill music creating a space you can just exist in as you hop across each shadow.

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Lo-Fi Vibes To Platform To

SCHiM instantly shot up my most anticipated list the further I got into the demo. With beautiful imagery, fun gameplay, and a chill soundtrack, it’s unlike any other platformer I’ve ever played, drawing closer comparisons to Journey and Untitled Goose Game than Mario or Celeste. It’s wildly creative and is worth experiencing. It also ran beautifully on Steam Deck, becoming a perfect experience to hop in for a few levels while on the go. The worst part about SCHiM is the wait until launch, but luckily, it’s just around the corner.

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SCHiM is part of the Steam Next Fest, with a demo including the day time levels available now on Steam. The full titles launches on July 18, 2024, on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, and Xbox.