Shadowgate Classic

Review by Orb

This is a classic adventure game, originally released in 1987 by Mindscape and updated for the GBC, and it packs a lot of punch into a tiny screen, let me tell you. I had more fun with this, in glorious 8-bit color, than some vacuous, bloated eye candy I have laying around here. I guess there's something to be said for just plain old good writing.

The prologue is thus: "Long ago, a great council of sorcerers existed, the circle of twelve. One from that group of mighty wizards fell into the black arts. He was forever named the Warlock lord and sought to subjugate the people of Kal Torlin. However, the remaining members of the circle, lead by the powerful Lakmir the Timeless succeeded in imprisoning the Evil One in a deep cavern below Castle Shadowgate. Centuries passed and the land enjoyed peace and prosperity as the Warlock Lord bided his time below. An unfortunate accident triggered by a group of dwarves released the Evil from his magical cell. Seizing control of castle Shadowgate, the Warlock Lord turned his control towards summoning the mighty titan, the Behemoth. With this powerful creature at his side the Warlock Lord would be unstoppable! Only someone from the ancient liner of Kings, of which the prophecies speak of, can stand against this Evil. Only a hero descended from the lost Royal Family can bring ruin to the Warlock Lord's dark schemes. ..."

The story has a very definite Tolkien air, Mountain Dwarves and all. For anyone that loves to explore rooms and do inventory-based puzzles, this game is a blast.

The game features really outstanding, clever graphics and animations for such a small design. It's first person, kind of a cross between the Kyrandia series and Shivers (without the straight puzzles).

The music is basically just MIDI-style stuff, played in loops, and it's quite nice and not redundant.

Game action is done the old-fashioned way, by the use of action words that are clicked on to change what the character is doing. It has, like its counterpart Deja Vu, a screen to the right with a map that shows all the exits of the room you're in. And even though it sounds like it, believe it or not, even with this feature, the screen does not get crowded.

The game has some fun RPG elements, with scrolls and spells that need to be found and properly used. Not too much, just enough to make them interesting puzzles that add to the overall gameplay. And believe it or not, there is a huge inventory in this game—where can I possibly put all this stuff? There are enemies that you have to use the correct weapon on, but these are my kind of foe, they stand and wait whilst you figure out which is the best inventory item to use on them!

A couple of down sides: there is a "leave" option for inventory, but I had trouble using it. Also, sometimes it is a pixel-hunt to get your cursor exactly over an inventory item to take it or over a hot spot to move. There is also a very large number of red herring inventory items, which is pretty much a pain in a small hand-held console. I counted 39 extraneous items at endgame. But as the game was originally designed for computer, this may simply be part of the original design.

A restart feature takes the player back to the last saved game. So you can go into a room and try things out, no muss, no fuss.

One nice feature of the game is that, although you can die easily, it does not matter, as the game will just pick you back up and dust you off, starting you where you left off. Additionally, if a path error is made before the death, you are restarted back before the path error. All games where the player can die should be like this.

Game paths are pretty clear—you can't get lost and have to retrace your steps; it's very much one room leads to another leads to the next, kind of how Secrets of the Luxor was designed.

There are two torches at either side of the screen that the player must keep lit throughout the game as the castle is explored, a fun puzzle all unto itself.

One of my biggest peeves in the game is that all doors had to be initially opened before you could go through them, and the game was constantly reminding me to open the door first, and it would have been better (but maybe more complex programming-wise) to just have one click open the door. And many of the puzzles are simply trial and error in figuring out which inventory piece to use on the beastie stopping you from getting the new inventory item next to it. Because of red-herring inventory, this was tedious, but the animations you're rewarded with when the right inventory item is used are a lot of fun.

The game has a great hint system as a built-in feature. And the save feature is really easy and a pleasure. There is one save slot per game—don't screw up!

One nice touch is that the game is in four languages. I have simply no idea how they built that into such a small package. Ain't technology grand? Someone had to have been a lover of pure, old-time adventure games to produce this and Deja Vu, and that should be acknowledged. Keeping these older games alive is a technological feat that impresses me and a historical one I admire. Okay, everyone, go get a GBC, and pick these up! The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Infinite Ventures
Publisher: Nintendo/Kemco
Release Date: 1999

Available for: Game Boy Color

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