Sometime in the late eighties, I played Shadowgate on the NES. I’m pretty sure I picked it up based solely on the box art. You see, after getting my first taste of fantasy RPG’s with classics like Dragon Warrior, Zelda, and Ultima, I was desperate for a new adventure that would scratch that itch. What I got with Shadowgate circa ’89 is what you’ll get from this new remake: a point-and-click adventure game short on gameplay and long on story. Is the story of Shadowgate worth your hard-earned cash and precious time? Channel your inner adventurer and come along with me on a little journey to find out.
From developer Zoljoi and Abstraction Games comes a fairly faithful remake of the original. As I said, I played Shadowgate on the NES, but it was my first text-based game, and as a young boy, it didn’t hold my interest long enough to see it through to the end. I don’t remember much about the original, but playing through the first few hours of this remake did bring back a few memories. Especially when I switched to the classic mode, including the original score, retro text and transition screen. If you’re not familiar with point-and-click or text-based adventures games, then let me explain. It features a first-person perspective, and instead of moving your character through Castle Shadowgate like traditional games, you’ll see each room as a 2D picture. Instead of walking around the room, you’ll use a cursor to point at different things, like a locked door in the background, a skull on the floor, or a torch on the wall. Some items in the room you’ll need to stash in your satchel, while other items you’ll need to use right away or not at all. A skull you pick up early named Yorick will offer the occasional hint. And you’ll need his help a lot. Like most games of this ilk, Shadowgate is a puzzle game at its core. Unfortunately, a good portion of these puzzles will leave you scratching your head and thanking Al Gore for inventing internet videogame walkthroughs.
Speaking of the puzzles, some of them were quite frustrating as they didn’t make much sense. Through trial and error, a lot of dying, (and some tips online), you’ll be able to navigate your way through the castle, but the best puzzles always make you think you should have seen the answer sooner. Instead, I was usually left thinking thank god, somebody posted that tip online, or I would have never solved it. Solving puzzles is a subjective thing, of course. A puzzle I find confusing, you may find obvious, so I won’t harp on them too much, but I can only say, a good portion of the Shadowgate puzzles didn’t leave me with that satisfied, I just solved an interesting and smart puzzle feeling.
As this is a basically a text-based adventure game, I won’t delve too deep into the story, as that is the only reason to play the game. I will say, you play as Jair, a young man sent on a quest by the wizard Lakmir to stop the evil warlock who controls the living castle Shadowgate. You’ll acquire spells, weapons, orbs, scrolls, etc. and figuring out when and where to use all of these items will determine if you can navigate your way safely through the castle.
Each screen utilizes beautiful hand-drawn artwork that looks like it was ripped straight from some Norwegian death metal band’s album covers. Despite the cool new visuals, the game’s UI is clunky, and for me, never felt intuitive. Aside from a few cutscenes that utilize some fine voice work, the rest of the story is told through text on the screen. The original music from the NES port is available, and it’s pretty great, but the revamped music, like the updated visuals, suits the story well.
I’m not sure how a new generation of gamers will embrace this old school storytelling, but for fans of the genre who want to experience the game all over again, or who somehow missed it or any of its past iterations, then this Shadowgate remake is worth a shot. As a grizzled old video gaming nerd, I enjoyed this version of the game more than I did as a preteen, but it’s nonsensical puzzles and frustrating-to-use UI still make it hard to recommend it for anyone who isn’t already a fan of the genre
Shadowgate PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Shadowgate is mostly a faithful remake of a classic point-and-click adventure game, and one fans of the genre will no doubt enjoy revisiting. Despite the cool dark fantasy artwork and lore, it’s probably not going to convert gamers who aren’t already fans.
- Beautiful hand-drawn world
- The same story and gameplay that made it a classic
- Unwieldy UI
- More than a few nonsensicle puzzles
Reviewed using base PS4.
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When Jeremy isn’t writing books or playing video games, he’s living his life one random movie references at a time.