Your Sinclair1st December 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #60
Shadow Of The Beast
How would you feel if one day you were human and the next day some Beast Master chap had swept down and turned you into a griffin!? (Frankly, I don't think I'd mind too much. I mean, you'd be able to fly, you'd be so hard you'd be able to walk the streets at night, you wouldn't have to pay the Poll Tax - you'd even have several hearts, so you wouldn't have to worry about heart disease.)
But how would you then feel it your new masters chose to employ you for all sorts of evil doings and, to cap it all, go and sacrifice all your former race (including your dad) right under your very beak!? (He's not a beast, is he, he's a barst. Shadow Of The Barst, they should've called it) Anyway, this is more or less what's happened to our hero in the novella introducing Shadow Of The Beast. When the poor bounder recognises what he's become, and recalls his humble homo sapiens origin, he's spurred to rebel against the Beast Master and all his evil minions. And this is where you come in...
You take the role of the selfsame hero with the funny-shaped head in his quest to defeat evil. The game starts with a scene-setting static graphic and text screen (more of these pop up infrequently when you move between locations). Click through this and you'll go into a multi-scrolling viewed-from-the-side arcade adventure.
At first, as you scroll about on the surface bashing beasties with a single blow, the game starts to feel a little repetitive (when you've seen 20 giant ants you've seen 'em all), but as you start exploring further in a subterranean sort of a way the challenge of the game increases, Basically, you can't progress until you find and pick up items and solve various puzzles. Then the game suddenly comes into its own, with you romping around punching mythical beasties, finding extra weapons and frying big 'orrible nasties!
Shadow Of The Beast has come to the Speccy just as its sequel is appearing on the snoot Amigas and STs. Of course, the original 16-bit was a bit of a 'landmark game', which was mainly down to the state-of-the-art graphics - all the very latest parallax scrolling, stuff like that. But mention the gameplay and it was a rather different tin of jellied eels. Which means that, er, if the 'bestest' thing was the graphics, and these are lost on the Speccy, then this doesn't bode too well, does it?
No, it doesn't - if it wasn't for the fact that gameplay on the Spec has been vastly improved, that is. The task of bringing it to us has been entrusted to Gremlin and a mighty fine and dandy job they've done of it too - where the Amiga gameplay was two-dimensional and stopped every other screen for a long, accessing break, the Speccy scrolls along smoothly, providing action all the way. I really think there's something in the argument that because Speccy graphics aren't the worlds greatest it makes programmers make up for it by squeezing the maximum amount of playability out of their games. Looks like we've come out tops again, Spec-chums!
Shadow Of The Beast is the sort of game that guarantees oodles of lastability as everyone plays it to get just that little bit further (expect mappers and tippers to be in their element). It falls down for me slightly because much of the graphics and fighting seem very dated - the aforementioned giant ants, for example, smack of 1985's vintage Ant Attack. Still, those grumbles take second place to mazes, object-finding and puzzle-solving, all of which are challenging and addictive.
So - not a brilliant game, but a darn good conversion that manages to improve upon the original in terms of playability.
Nicely pitched sword-and-sorcery game, mixing beat-'em-up, puzzle solving and arcade adventure.