It's always unwise to judge by appearances. Shadow Of The Beast's goat-headed hero may not be a picture to look at, but once he was an innocent human baby whose only sin was to fall prey to the minions of the evil Beast Lord. Deep within the blood-stained Necropolis temple, the infant was turned into a monster, crossed with a goat to produce the perfect warrior-messenger. For many years this tortured being has served the Beast Lord with his human past forgotten. Only now has the delusion been torn away, by the brutal murder of his parents on the temple's sacrificial stone...
Your quest is simply vengeance. Using the superhuman powers, the Beast Lord's mages have endowed you with, you must take on an army of monstrous beings in your quest to destroy this reign of evil. An epic adventure begins on those famous grassy plains where masses of parallax scroll inspired so many Amiga purchases. The C64 is very close to the 16-bit original and immediately presents you with a choice. To the right you'll ind the entrance to Necropolis, but there's plenty of monsters to defeat before you can get there: a flying dragon which drops bombs, numerous alien formations, rockets and granite-encased creatures. Alternatively, you might like to sprint left where a tree trunk encloses the entrance to a massive underground complex.
To begin with, our hairy hero is armed only with his fists, but later on there's a jetpack, a laser gun and an electrical bolt which must be used on the correct monster. You need to be adept with these as a single hit costs one life. Death brings a brief moment of invulnerability - if you've got some lives left to lose. Also, if you fall on spikes all your lives are lost. The 25 lives you start with can be quickly lost, but there are strength potions to restore some or all of your lives.
Far from being a "shadow" of the original, this ambitious conversion actually manages to outshine it. For a start, the graphics are excellent, with an incredible eleven levels of parallax above ground.
There's tremendous variety in the nasties too, and their attack patterns. The no nonsense beat-'em-up action is almost identical to the Amiga but benefits from a seemingly faster game pace.
It's also slightly easier to play (a good thing - the original was initially very frustrating) with 25 lives instead of the previous 12. However, a huge challenge is provided by the sheer size of the game, only made feasible by the cartridge format which avoids any multi-load hassle - just the odd informative inter-level text screen, before instantaneously loading the next section.
There's also a good rendition of the Amiga's moody soundtrack, changing for certain sections. It seemed a bit ambitious to most, but C64 Shadow Of The Beast has turned out extremely well with even more polish and playability than the original.
Shadow Of The Beast plays amazingly well on the C64. There's more loading than on the Amiga, usually accompanied by a paragraph of atmospheric text, but since it takes only a second the flow of the game isn't interrupted.
On the Amiga if you accidentally went backward, triggering a load, it was teeth-grinding time waiting for the disk - with the C64 it's hardly even noticeable. This makes for a really fast-playing arcade adventure.
There's not much thought required, just map out the admittedly vast sections, flick a couple of switches and grab a few objects, but the sheer variety of enemy creatures is stunning. Everything from a lethal slug to gigantic, bomb-dropping dragon are waiting to snatch away your lives.
There's just so many creatures, all with their own attack patterns, which make it so addictive. DMA Designs have used their Blood Money routines to good effect, with the Amiga's showpiece stuff - big animated hands, impaling tusks and spinning skulls - being effortlessly recreated on the C64. It's a pity the backgrounds are so plain underground, but generally this is top-notch for graphics.
Equally importantly, the rich Amiga soundtrack by David Whittaker has been turned into a gorgeous C64 classic.
Beast may not have much in the way of original ideas, but playability is high and it's good how you can soon progress quite a way due to a large number of lives. Then, once you've explored a bit, you can start figuring out the attack patterns so less and less lives are lost every time you play.
All in all, a first-class conversion which improves over the original in some ways, playing really well with superlative presentation.
Classic scrolling intro, choice of soundtrack or FX, plenty of loading with text messages - but instantaneous loading makes it really fast, better than the Amiga!
Eleven levels of parallax scrolling above ground. Below ground is a little disappointing but the huge variety of creatures is amazing.
Gorgeous, moody soundtrack.
25 lives give you the chance to explore quite a way, even though it is tough right from the start.
A big challenge, tough and imaginative.
A brilliant conversion.