Shadowgate

aka: Behemoth, Shadowkeep
Moby ID: 1070
Macintosh Specs
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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.

Spellings

  • シャドウゲイト - Japanese spelling

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Screenshots

Promos

Credits (Macintosh version)

10 People

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 73% (based on 37 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 81 ratings with 6 reviews)

A step way back

The Good
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.



The Bad
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 (222) · 2006

Fan-freaking-tastic

The Good
Easy player control/interface (there's really only one or two buttons), nothing too cryptic about puzzles in the game, and some really neat little twists.

The Bad
Not supported for Windows..Dammitt!

The Bottom Line
First player perspective of the older genre of RPG- completely turn based, no animation, but a great plot/story line, some cool ways to perish (which thou wilt regularly)- my first RPG that made a fanatic out of me. Interface for the NES not so good. However, the most interactive version is available for Macintosh, running on the 68030 processor type, runs on anything up to and including system 6.X.

DOS · by Ryan MacGregor (1) · 2003

Kill me once, then kill me twice, then kill me once again.

The Good
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.

The Bad
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.

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STINGER
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“As you go down the trap door, you realize you took a big step. The fall is quite fatal."

NES · by PCGamer77 (3158) · 2011

[ View all 6 player reviews ]

Trivia

Inform port

Programmer David Griffith re-implemented an entirely text-only port of this game in Inform, available (with source!) at his website, reviewed in SPAG #36.

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Related Games

Shadowgate Classic
Released 1999 on Game Boy Color, 2000 on Windows Mobile, Palm OS
Beyond Shadowgate
Released 1993 on TurboGrafx CD
Shadowgate: MacVenture Series
Released 2015 on Windows, Macintosh
Shadowgate: Special Edition DLC
Released 2014 on Macintosh, Windows
Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers
Released 1999 on Nintendo 64

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  • MobyGames ID: 1070
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Alan Chan.

Amiga, Windows 3.x added by POMAH. Nintendo 3DS added by GTramp. NES added by PCGamer77. Apple IIgs added by Eli Tomlinson. Macintosh added by Pseudo_Intellectual. Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Apogee IV, Pseudo_Intellectual, Havoc Crow, Thomas Thompson, David Griffith, Rodney Fisk.

Game added March 17, 2000. Last modified May 5, 2024.