A point and click adventure classic which was originally released on the Apple Mac back in 1987 but made famous with its release onto the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989 has recently been released in a completely new re-imagined version for PC & Mac. The premise to the game is that you the player must journey through Shadowgate, “the living castle” to destroy the evil warlock whilst finding useful items, solving puzzles and trying very hard to stay alive!
Original creators Dave Marsh and Karl Roelofs started a Kickstarter campaign back in October of 2012 in order to get the funding required to allow them to recreate their original masterpiece with a new game engine, art style and expanded game play. Obviously they were successful and reached their goal (as I wouldn’t be writing this review otherwise) and the project was green lit. Less than 2 years later Shadowgate was released for purchase through Steam in August 2014. They released a couple of editions to purchase for which I decided to get the Warlock (or Special) Edition which set me back $29.99 USD as opposed to the vanilla version (which is just the digital download of the game) for $19.99. The Warlock Edition included things such as a digital soundtrack with 25 tracks based on the original NES score, a 60 page eBook featuring the art of Shadowgate, a digital map of the world, wallpapers and a 2015 Digital SG World Calendar.
Now I was a massive fan of the original Shadowgate on NES. The sound track, artwork and puzzles sucked me right in and over all the game probably contributed quite a lot to getting me interested in adventure games and the fantasy genre in general. Up until then I hadn’t really played many of them on PC or read any similar type books etc. Then throughout the 90’s I went on to play many more adventure games and became a huge fan of the Lucasarts point and clicks, Sierra Adventure titles and even the later Myst style CDROM adventures. With Shadowgate and probably most games back then, the puzzles were definitely not easy and I am a little ashamed to say that I might have called the Nintendo Hotline at least once to help me get passed one area or another that I was stuck in. The new version of Shadowgate definitely does not disappoint in that regard, on the harder difficulty it is bloody hard! All I can say is, get used to dying… alot! This time around you get to select from 4 different difficulty levels, Apprentice, Journeyman, Master and Ironman. Foolishly I selected Master as I was thinking that because I had beaten the original game previously this shouldn’t be too hard, well boy was I wrong. So far I have died about 60 times (something which is synonymous with the game as the developers even include a world wide death counter on their website!) which is mainly due to some enhancements to the puzzles, my bad memory and also my curiosity, like when I decided to see what would happen if I tried to poke the wraith with a stick for example. Through an update to the game in October they even added a new level called “Iron Man Mode” which turns off the ability to save and requires you to beat the game in one go. Needless to say I wont be giving that mode a go any time soon.
Aside from the newly added difficulty to the game, Shadowgate brings with it a fantastic new score and superb hand painted art style, something I have yet to see in a video game to date. For me listening to that music and coming up against some of the old rooms and puzzles really takes me back to the original. One other great addition to this new version is the new voice overs and narrative. The original game only gave you a glimpse into the story and world of Shadowgate whereas this new game really draws you in with added cut scenes and greater story arc. The game play is true to the original however, something which some gamer’s today might find a bit clunky. My major complaint is that on rooms that you have already visited, the game makes you sit through mini cut scenes or dialog before you can continue. I believe this is something they are looking at addressing through updates and they have already added some new interactivity features through their October update.
It’s great that the developers have not just abandoned this post its release and really seem to be making an effort to grow the game and the fan base. I have a feeling that they might be building it for a sequel somewhere down the road.
It is safe to say that they really don’t make games like this any more and in an era where HD remakes are becoming quite prevalent, this is a refreshing change. A classic re-imagined with all new gameplay to not only give something new to the original fans and new players alike but also pay homage to an adventure classic of the 80’s.
Review by RD contributor Greg Pell