One of the most memorable adventure games of the 8 bit era blasts forth as dev/pub Zojoi has remade the classic NES mind-boggler Shadowgate. Many fans will remember how they died in the most gruesome ways; you never saw it of course, but the descriptions were morbid. Back then, Shadowgate was a fantastic puzzle game, but when familiar rooms are redrawn and puzzles reimagined, has it withstood the test of time?
You’re an unnamed adventurer sent forth by the wizard Lakmir to a living castle known as Shadowgate, tasked with traversing its deadly trials and putting an end to the reign of an evil Warlock. More back story in 1987 the addition of hand-drawn cut-scenes and narration have opened up a full blown narrative. It’s far easier to get immersed this time round and the story is all the stronger for it.
Gameplay on the other hand has remained pretty stoic, clicking on-screen activates features in each room and the commands displayed at the top of the screen such as “Take”, “open” and “read” are the primary source of interaction with the environment.
The first thing you’ll pick up is a skull called Yorick (hint referencing), soon serves as an in-game hint system and quickly becomes a vital part in aiding your progression. The rooms and puzzles are more of a homage to the original, rather than a HD port, though the iconic “EPOR” room is an exception to the rule, redrawn and updated with a the spell on the wall that – like before – no longer has a use.
As I said this is an exception, far too often you enter a familiar room and expect it to be as straightforward as the original, only to be completely wrong. Personally this is a standout subversion of expectations which for an old-school player like myself I find the addition of all this new content a welcome expansion to it’s depth and playtime. Though it’s replayability is cut when you consider how easy it is to storm through a second time.
A key detail gleaned from the original is the importance of having a lit torch with you at all times, the only difference being that if it goes out, you can still live by lighting another if you have one in your possession. Hardcore fans will know that in the old version it was an instant game over, this time round you’ll only be meeting a gruesome end if you attempt to navigate the dark. Though these are just as imaginatively grim and painstakingly detailed as they were before.
Shadowgate had a fantastic soundtrack with many enchanting tunes which have been beautifully reconstructed in the haunting orchestral tones that perfectly mirror the unease etched into each room. Fans will be able to pick up the faint melodies of the original pieces, serving the games rich history. Speaking of history, you can swap the soundtrack, visuals and text to retro format, harking back to its original outing (great if you’re a fan of the legendary soundtrack composed by Hiroyuki Masun).
Though it’s tough to recommend turning back time when you comprehend the staggering level of detail seen in each area: skeletons littering the floors, creepy caves that house beautiful but deadly waterfalls and the numerous inhabitants of the castle. Even the legendary dragon room; which despite not being a carbon copy of the original is a truly standout moments for returning fans.
Not to say there’s not a lot to like for newcomers to the series either, excellently crafted and fantastic looking from beginning to end. There’s more animations, sound effects and a new difficulty level that changes the way the game is played.
The long awaited remake of the classic NES game Shadowgate is a fantastic one, the updated visuals, story, cut-scenes and puzzles make for a truly memorable adventure through one of the deadliest castles in gaming history. Your foe is more the setting itself than the enemies in your path. I loved Shadowgate back in 1987. I love it even more now.