Game review: Shadowgate
One of the most memorable graphic adventure games of the 8 bit era blasts forth as developer and publisher Zojoi has remade classic Nintendo Entertainment System mind boggler, Shadowgate which was created by Dave Marsh and Roelofs. I have many fond memories of Shadowgate, getting frustrated at wondering where to use found spells and what to do with items in what room. Many fans of the game will more often than anything comment on how much they died in the most gruesome ways, you never saw it of course but the descriptions of which were quite morbid. Back then, Shadowgate was a fantastic puzzle game and it is just as fantastic now as it was back then as familiar rooms have been redrawn and puzzled re-imagined as well as a staggering amount of new additions.
You are an unnamed adventurer who has be sent forth by the wizard Lakmir to a living castle known as Shadowgate where you must traverse its deadly trials and put an end to the evil Warlock Lords reign. The storyline that was more of a backstory back in 1987 is now a full blown narrative thanks to hand drawn cutscenes and narration meaning it’s far easier to get immersed into this game than its predecessor. Cutscenes also are triggered at certain points of the game to carry along the story and keeps the player interested.
The gameplay is exactly the same as it was before except now you have a mouse and hotkeys. Clicking onscreen features in each room will activate them and using the commands displayed at the top of the screen such as “Take”, “open”, “read” etc. are the primary source of interacting with the environment. The first thing you’ll pick up is a skull called Yorick who talks to you soon becoming a vital part of your progression as Yorick acts as the in-game hint system. All of the games rooms and puzzles have been redone with a few being more of a homage to the original game rather than a straight copy for example the iconic “EPOR” room; even though it is just redrawn and updated, the spell which is seen on the wall like before no longer has a use. There are a lot of moments like these where you enter a familiar room, think it’s going to be as straight forward as the original only to be completely wrong and having to really think about it which for me makes this Shadowgate stand out from other puzzle games. This game is also considerably longer with a lot of new rooms added with new puzzles increasing its depth and giving it longevity although it only warrants one playthrough as you can easily storm through it a second time. A key element which has carried over from the old game is the importance of torches found throughout the rooms as you need to keep one lit at all times, the difference is however that if it goes out in this game, you can still live by lighting another if you possess one. Fans will know that once the torch extinguished, it was game over but this time its only game over if you try to move in the pitch black. The deaths are just as imaginative and grimly detailed just as it was before.
Shadowgate had a fantastic soundtrack with many eerie and enchanting tunes which has been beautifully remade in an orchestral haunting tone which fits the aesthetic of the game and the original melodies can be faintly recognized. Each room looks beautifully reimagined giving off a uneasy feel as you know that death means just making a wrong turn. This is thanks to the amazing amount of detail seen in each area as skeletons litter the room’s floors, creepy caves, beautiful but deadly waterfalls, the views of the castle itself and then there are the creatures that occupy some. Worth mentioning is the legendary dragon room; this time around, the dragons head is seen swaying left and right with his eyes glowing, it’s a truly memorable moment just being in this room. Excellently crafted game and fantastic looking from start to end.
A cool new addition is the option to swap over the soundtrack, room transitions and text to retro format which makes the game feel a bit more like its original outing and also if you’re a huge fan of the legendary soundtrack composed by Hiroyuki Masuno. There are more animations, sound effects and changeable difficulty level that changes the way the game is played completely giving more of a challenge.
The long awaited remake of the classic NES game Shadowgate is a fantastic one. The updated visuals, story, cutscenes and puzzles make for a truly memorable adventure through one of the deadliest castles in existence where your foe is more the setting itself rather than enemies in your path. I loved Shadowgate back in 1987. I love it even more now.
Story - 5/5
Graphics - 5/5
Gameplay - 5/5
Overall - 5/5
Version Reviewed - PC