Shadowgate is Dark, Dreary and Unforgiving
By David Lins
When I first stepped into Castle Shadowgate, I was young enough to fear its every corner, its every turn. It was the first videogame world I’d experienced where every choice you made—even something as insignificant as picking up a book—could lead to your demise. Despite fearing it, I was absolutely enthralled with the game. There was just something about those dark, twisting corridors that made it hard to leave, especially with how amusing some of the deaths were.
Now, nearly twenty years later, Zojoi has given me a chance to enter the castle again in Shadowgate, a remastered version of the game complete with HD graphics, voice acting, and some beautiful sound design. I’ll admit, even though many of the original designers returned, I was pretty weary. This was a beloved childhood memory, and many “remasters” tend to buff up the graphics while leaving the heart and soul behind.
My worries were pretty quickly dashed, however. After the tutorial, I was left to fend for myself in the castle, and it was just as dangerous as it had been before—if not moreso. It only took a few deaths to make me think twice before entering each room or trying to grab an item. You’ll want to grab each item, too. See, unlike other adventure games, you won’t miss an item because it was hidden behind an ugly mesh of pixels. You’ll miss items because there are tons of them in the game, and it becomes easy to gloss over the ones that are actually important.
In my first run (on Master difficulty, of course), I’d gotten stuck numerous times. Eventually, I found out the banshee I ran into earlier managed to curse me and that I was slowly…slooooowly dying. “Okay,” I thought, “surely there’s a cure around here somewhere.” Except there wasn’t. Or, at least, I didn’t think there was. As the curse’s effects worsened over the next few hours, I got desperate and took to Google to find out what cured a banshee’s curse. Some random dolt on the internet seemed to believe salt would do the trick. In the end, I died alone, convulsing on the ground while scratching at the walls for salt. Good times.
So yes, Shadowgate certainly lives up to its name in terms of difficulty. In those corridors, you’ll face certain death round every bend. Keep your wits about you and you just might pull through alright. Don’t rely on old tricks, though—the developers anticipated players using old solutions to breeze through the game, and they’ll punish you for it. Sometimes it’ll be a slap on the wrist—a gentle reminder that things are different—other times, you’ll pay for your curiosity with your life.
One thing that really makes this title stand out is the hand-painted backgrounds and eerie, atmospheric music. The developers have done a masterful job taking the original map and adding their own tweaks to it—places will look familiar enough to veterans of the castle, while adding tons of new details for them to sift through and explore. The music itself is a dynamic, orchestral remix of the original NES score, with instruments fading in and out depending on your present situation.
I have to say, I’m impressed with Shadowgate so far. It has surpassed my expectations by an incredible degree. Take it from someone who’s been revisiting the castle since he was barely old enough to talk: if you’ve played and enjoyed the original game, start getting excited. I certainly am—I can’t wait to sit down with this game over the next week so I can start putting together a proper review.
It is a sad thing that our preview must end here!
Look for Shadowgate to be released on August 21st!
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/david.jpg”]David Lins is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania that has loved video games since he was old enough to hold a controller. He enjoys all sorts of games, but prefers difficult or terrifying ones. Currently, he plays too many roguelikes. When not writing about his favorite hobby, he loves to drink beer, write fiction, play tabletop RPGs or board games, and hang out with his friends and family. He also has a passion for technology and loves tinkering with his phone, computer, and other devices. Follow David on Twitter for “hilarious” or “insightful” tweets about nothing in particular. [/author]