- Shadowgate (2014 on Windows, Macintosh, 2015 on Linux...)
Description official descriptions
Using the same graphical interface as Deja Vu, Shadowgate is an adventure game set in a fantasy world. Players take the part of an adventurer sent to the ancient keep of Shadowgate on a quest to find a mystic artifact known as the Staff of Ages and stop the evil Warlock Lord from summoning a horrific demon known as the Behemoth. However, Shadowgate has become infested with the Warlock Lord's demonic minions, not to mention the castle's still functional booby-traps.
Unlike Deja Vu, death comes at the protagonist suddenly, unexpectedly and, most of all, often. Such simple acts as pulling the wrong switch or opening the wrong door can cause the hero to be skewered by a booby-trap or disemboweled by a monster. If the player character's torch burns out (this happens quite regularly) and the player forgets to light a new one, the protagonist will trip in the dark and break his neck.
- シャドウゲイト - Japanese spelling
Credits (Macintosh version)
Average score: 75% (based on 36 ratings)
Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 80 ratings with 6 reviews)
Shadowgate did offer the notion of adventure. Playing it for the first time when everything was new and the puzzles were rather straightforward aroused my curiosity. That's as good as it gets.
First and foremost, you have no character selection or character building. This is an adventure game, not an RPG.
Second the game is 100% linear. You cannot complete the game without having done everything there is to do in the game. This means you must have explored every square inch of land, taken every item, solved every puzzle. While most RPG or adventure gamers will usually do this anyway, nobody likes to be forced down one path.
Third there is basically no plot. You are a warrior infiltrating a castle to kill the evil warlock and that's the end of the detail in the storyline.
Fourth, the puzzles could have been better designed. They are either so easy that a monkey could do them, or they are so hard and vague that it takes blind madness and lots of luck (or a cheat guide) to be able to figure them out. Most puzzle games even of this time required common sense on some level to play out as one of many factors in puzzle solving. This is not the case here, as completely irrelevant items with no correlation in the story, game, or with one another must be combined or used together to produce a (usually but not always) unforseeable effect just to get to the next screen where you get to figure it out all over again.
While some backtracking is required, each scenario can almost be a standalone puzzle. What prevents this from happening however is that you might need a frozen ball for a lake, or some other silliness. The static screens are loosely connected by requiring an item or items from a previous screen to be used to advance the game. Other than that, there really is no connection between the challenges the player is faced with. So not only is gameplay minimal to non-existent, atmosphere is as well.
The Bottom Line
If Shadowgate was the first game of its type to break new ground, I'd have to say it would be a remarkable step forward. Unfortunately we've seen this type of play in countless other games that have slipped under the radar which had been produced YEARS before Shadowgate. How a game such as this could have even moderate sales is beyond me, especially considering games as much as 7 years older did far better. Check this one out only if you're in a contest to find one of the worst designs in gaming ever produced.
NES · by D Michael (221) · 2006
"Shadowgate" is what got me hooked on adventure games. I could leave it at that, but I want to convince everyone else of how great it is, so I shall go on.
Published in 1989, "Shadowgate" (like its noir sibling, "Déjà Vu") is an archetype of the first-person graphical adventure game. The player goes behind the eyes of a warrior infiltrating the ancient keep of Shadowgate in an attempt to stop the evil Lord Warlock before he summons a powerful demon. The screen is divided between a view of the current area, a command window doubling to show messages from the game, and an inventory/spell list. (There is also a torch symbol, important, since letting the torch burn out means automatic death.) A cursor shaped like a skeletal hand allows the player to use commands such as TAKE, EXAMINE etc. on the scenery and objects.
Progress through the game is essentially simple: open doors, head further into the game, pick up everything that might possibly be used against Lord Warlock. Now and then locked doors, monsters etc. get in the way, and one has to, well, use the right object to bypass them.
All of this won't tell you why I love this game. Only playing it will. It's somewhat primitive; basically a text adventure with graphics, when it comes down to it. It still captivated me as a young gamer, because it was so immersive.
The graphics are nothing incredibly complex, but transmit the mood nicely. I particularly liked the textures of the ubiquitous stone: masoned walls, smooth flagged floors, knotty natural rock. Some sights stayed in my mind for a while: the Dragon Room, for example, or the top of the tower.
The music is, almost without exception, excellent. It's always dark in some fashion or other (Shadowgate isn't a nice place to be), but it shifts from the drama of the entrance to the melancholy notes of the enchanted garden to the open threat of the Dragon Room. It's been over a decade, and I can still hum some of the tunes.
While the puzzles are a mixed bag, some were quite inspired. I particularly liked the various uses of the sphere (a bit of a departure from the tendency of "one object, one puzzle" in early adventure games), the flying potion, and the riddles of the sphinx. Plenty of clues were embedded everywhere, in more or less subtle form, which made the game feel coherent. (I also rather enjoyed the "Motari Riseth" poem.)
And made up by music and graphics and other things, there is the mood. How can I describe it? It's mainly nightmarish, but so fascinating I was disappointed when I finished it. Well, I was a young girl who had never played an adventure game before, and it astounded me. I'm not saying that "Shadowgate" is the best game in existence, but for a year it populated my dreams.
As I explained above, the game mechanics are rather simplistic. Puzzles have to be solved to get by, but due to the constraints of the form, they are mostly a case of simple manipulation of scenery (pulling a switch) or Use Object On Other Object. In fact, when I got stuck, I could get unstuck simply by trying every object on everything else. I guess it couldn't really be made more complex at the time, but within modern frames of reference it feels minimal.
As a fantasy freak, I wouldn't have minded more plot, or indeed any world-building. The very basic plot (warrior tries to defeat evil warlock) is basically suspended between the introduction and the final room, which is simply exploration and puzzle-solving. Some things (such as the books in the library) give some tantalising hints about the history of the castle and the world outside, but they never really tie together. I can't help but feeling that just a bit more plot would have made it even better.
There is a lot of writing, since the graphics themselves don't convey much. The writing quality is quite sufficient (with some glitches), but not literary. (Interestingly, I played the game in a Swedish translation, which was decent.)
The main problem with "Shadowgate" is the frequent and unfair occurrences of death. Modern adventure games, even if they don't conform to LucasArts "no death" rule, simply are not this cruel. Dying because you try to swim in a shark-infested lake, or cross a dilapidated bridge... I can understand that. But in "Shadowgate", you can also die because you pick up an object that is invisibly booby-trapped, enter a cave that collapses over your head, or try to save a prisoner who turns out to be a werewolf. The booby-trapped objects in particular were aggravating: objects have to be taken, and there is no way to tell which ones will kill you. Still, after the rather nifty "you have died" scene, the player is returned to the room previous to the one where death occurred, so it isn't that bad. (I also didn't find any way of making the game unfinishable.)
(Incidentally, when I played it, the game had a bit of a bug, allowing the player to stay in the Fire Room without wearing the cloak. You simply had to enter the room, leave automatically because of the heat, then get killed. You would be returned to the Fire Room without having to leave.)
The SPEAK command is virtually useless: there are no characters capable of holding a conversation with you, and while SPEAK activates the spells, so does USE.
There could have been more of it. But then, I always say that.
The Bottom Line
A groundbreaking game, "Shadowgate" is enjoyable in its own right, and should be considered a classic. Short on plot and complexity, big on object-puzzles and sudden death, it is still a large, mood-filled adventure that should remain playable after 16 years.
NES · by Christina Nordlander (24) · 2005
The graphics and music/sound in Shadowgate are of very high quality, given the limitations of the NES. Unlike Microsoft Windows Help, the built-in hint system here is actually helpful (but only sometimes).
As for the substance of the game, I have to admit that some of the writing is pretty clever, and even funny at times. This is a non-action, slow-paced game, which is quite unusual for an old console title. My guess is that mostly oldschool PC gamers will like Shadowgate, but oldschool console gamers looking for something different than the typical arcade fare may also enjoy it.
Shadowgate is remarkable for its sheer existentialism. Traditional adventure games either try to amuse the player, or frighten him with death; Shadowgate actually tries to amuse the player with death! If your sense of humor tends strongly to the dark and ironic side, then some of the text in this game will probably strike you as downright hilarious.
This is one of the strengths of the game, but it’s also a weakness. You have to die CONSTANTLY, even if you are playing pretty smart, which can be extremely frustrating. If those witty little post-mortem messages don’t do it for you, then you are going to get tired of this game really fast.
In fact, “frustration” would be this game’s middle name, if it only had one. Some of the clues given by the game are rather unhelpful, and occasionally they can even be downright misleading. Puzzle solutions are generally only logical when viewed after-the-fact. You see, there is one and only one solution to every problem, so it’s all about getting into the heads of the designers, and not about logical thinking. I mainly got through Shadowgate through sheer trial-and-error, which has a way of sucking all the fun out of a game.
If there was more substance to this game, then the “puzzle” aspect wouldn’t be that big of a problem. But there is practically no story here whatsoever! It’s really just a bunch of puzzles loosely tied together in a sequence. To top things off, the game isn’t even user-friendly. Torch management is a royal pain, especially since you have no idea how many there are in total in the castle. The menu system feels very clunky, too. It’s enough to make you welcome death with a smile. I guess that’s appropriate, since that seems to be the underlying message of the game, anyway…
The Bottom Line
If you want a challenging puzzle-adventure for your NES, this is a good place to start. Watch what you wish for, though. Shadowgate may give you more old-fashioned, point-and-click frustration than you bargained for.
“As you go down the trap door, you realize you took a big step. The fall is quite fatal."
NES · by PCGamer77 (3159) · 2011
Related Sites +
- MobyGames ID: 1070
- Wikipedia (en)
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Alan Chan.
Game added March 17th, 2000. Last modified September 22nd, 2023.