Monday, June 29, 2015

A Short Review of Shadowgate Classic

Imagine, if you will, a simpler time in gaming. A time dominated by simpler games. In this time, one game stood above the rest in the PC gaming scene, and that game was called Shadowgate. A groundbreaking point and click adventure game widely considered to be among the best of the genre. Twelve years later, Shadowgate returned as Shadowgate Classic on the Game Boy Color. And now, 16 years after that, I'm here to share that game with you.

Shadowgate Classic was entirely new to me. I didn't know much about it, and I didn't look up any info before purchasing a copy, as I prefer to go into my reviews blindly whenever it's possible. I only look up information on the game once I'm well into it. So I was honestly surprised to discover that I was playing a point and click adventure game once I started my quest.

Set in the vast fortress of Shadowgate, your role is to explore the castle and find a way to stop the evil Warlock from summoning a behemoth. You will start with nothing, but as you play you will collect many items that will aid you on your quest. There is no real combat, no stats, no movement. Just a single image with the choices to move to another location, use an item, open a box or door, examine your surroundings, etc. If something dangerous appears, you must either figure out which item can be used to overcome it, or retreat and look for another solution to the problem. Once you've found the items you need to defeat the warlock, you must search him out and then poof! It's the end of the game. Pretty simple right? Well not necessarily.

Like any good point and click, SC is centered around experimentation and death. Lots and lots of death. Any choice you make could instantly kill you. Much like a choose-your-own-adventure book, there's usually no intuitive way to tell what choice will lead to success, what will lead to failure, and what will lead to your tragic demise. Fortunately, saving is easy to do at any time, and the game will also automatically kick you back to the last screen you were at if you die, so forgetting to save for a while isn't a huge deal. 

As for the graphics, it has to be said; SC looks outdated. Even compared to other GBC games, the interactive illustrations could be a lot better. Of course, as a straight port of a 1987 Macintosh game, one can only expect so much, but I think it's fair to say that while it has a distinctive look, Shadowgate Classic hasn't aged all that well graphically. The illustrations have that weird 70s-80s pulp fantasy novel feel to them, which isn't a look I'd describe as timeless. 

So now to the real question: Is it worth playing? Well, yes... IF you're a patient person who likes experimentation and puzzling things out. If not, well, let's just say it didn't take me long to turn to a guide to help me finish, as I didn't have the patience to sit through hours of testing various items and options. However, I did appreciate the history behind the game. I felt like I was exploring gaming history as I explored the castle Shadowgate, and that alone made the experience worth it for me. If you're interested in trying it out, it's less than $2 on Amazon right now, so you don't have much to lose. 

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