Reviews

Shadowgate still holds up after 30 years

Sometimes we see new games pop up on the eShop that we may never have heard of and think it is brand new, yet it could be a re-release of an older game. Comes in Shadowgate, a re-release of an 80’s classic point and click adventure that originated on the Macintosh and the NES. It was an absolute classic when it released and now developer Abstraction Games is bringing it back to the current consoles. Complete with a fresh coat of paint, a voiced narrator and a new interface to fit the norm of modern days.

You are cast in the role of a more or less willing adventurer named Jair who has to traverse the depths of an ancient-living castle, hoping to defeat the evil that has taken residence within, and corrupted its halls, the resoundingly titled Warlock Lord. As you progress through the catacombs and the castle, you will have to learn more about the location and the history through experimenting and finding scrolls that are scattered around. The game has a general lack of handholding that we have become used to. This may be frustrating for some, but it gives a more mysterious
atmosphere of the dank, creepy, and abandoned fun house of puzzles and death.  You need to start Shadowgate more because you want to have a great experience, rather then a great story.

Although you have a mighty task of slaying a warlock, you start the adventure of with just about nothing more then a torch, and you have to look for items and weapons from fallen humans or entities to strengthen yourself against the perils that lurk in the dark. Shadowgate is quite a brutal game, the likes of a modern day Dark Souls one could say. You progress through a series of rooms where, if you are not careful, could spell doom the instant you enter. You wouldn’t want to enter a room with a dragon waking up and using you as his candle now would you.

The game has stayed true to the era in which it came from, meaning you will see the game over screen alot. Virtually every action that you take that is not the right one in the situation will result in your death, but things have been toned down from the original, especially due to the fact that the reimagined experience is now, as expected, much richer. The game also has a hidden time limit that will result in your death when you are not careful. Your torches are the only way to look around in the dark, and when you have none left death is the next thing you will see on your screen. That means that you have to make sure you find enough torches and stay up to date with how many you have left in order to reach the end.

When you think the game isn’t hard enough yet, the interface doesn’t make everything all that better either. For the console re-release the game received a control wheel to go through your menu’s, selecting the items and so on. But the game has a strict way in how you need to use items together. Like litting a torch for example, you have to use the lit torch on an unlit one to make it burn, but doing the opposite doesn’t work. It’s an archaic way of thinking and one that was more the norm 20 or 30 years ago.

The puzzles are hauntingly difficult at times, and you have to make sure you look at every scroll and search every nook and cranny for answers to know what to do. The game does give you a helpful skull at the start of the game named Yorick who gives you hints that lead you in the right direction when you ask for it. Usually I am not one to ask for help in a game, but when your life is literally burning away and you have to make sure you have to do everything in the right order, then Yorick is a welcome addition to the game. And if Yorick isn’t enough to help you out, there are also forums still available where you can find answers or ask a question.

What also got a major overhaul are the visuals and sound quality. Shadowgate became a stunning game where every room looks like a marvelous painting brought to life with some sort of demon magic. Gamers can sometimes argue that games became to dark, but this is what Shadowgate makes such a wonderful experience to see and hear. The brown, black, white and red colors used throughout the castle are the perfect tone for a game like this. The animations may seem a little stiff, but this is an adventure game, like a good book of D&D, not an action game where you have to keep moving all the time.

The soundtrack is also eerie and would be perfect background music during halloween or a haunted tale. The music and the visuals combined make for the perfect combination that Shadowtale could wish for and it is something that make the game all the more memorable.

Although Shadowgate is a very hard game, it is a fair one at that. If you can reach the end, you will find a satisfying journey to look back to with many interesting story pieces and puzzles that have finally been uncovered. The game does have his faults for a modern day re-release that could have been ironed out a bit more to make this a truly perfect game. But fans of Dungeons and Dragons shouldn’t miss out on a great experience like this, because there are far to few of these still remaining.

8/10

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