Nostalgia is a powerful force, but lately its been getting out of hand. Instead focusing on new adventures or settings, we’re instead revisiting past favorites. While this can be great in moderation, we’re at the point where random games from the past are given another chance to shine. The latest, Shadow of the Beast, is based on the 1989 Amiga title of the same. With a decent legacy and brutal gameplay, is Shadow of the Beast a must or is it all flash?
Shadow of the Beast is your generic, evil guy creates a monster that turns on its master. Not only is the premise pretty boring, Shadow of the Beast has the worst story presentation in recent memory.
Very little is explained throughout the gameplay sections, but there is enough context to figure out the basic gist. Most of the actual story is told through collectible orbs and rewards for finishing a level. These scenes tend to be a minute or so, elaborating on events that have already happened or set up the next trial. The flaw with these cutscenes is that they add very little and what little they add is pretty pointless.
Another extremely frustrating aspect to Shadow of the Beast, is you don’t understand any of your enemies languages. This means any spoken dialogue appears in unreadable subtitles. To read the dialogue you need to buy an extremely expensive item and revisit the stages. If that’s not annoying enough, a lot of the dialogue that I saw you could’ve probably guessed from context.
If a bad story isn’t enough, Shadow of the Beast has an extremely dull combat system. Fights feel less dynamic and fun and more like they’re long winded QTEs. Every enemy has a trick to kill them, with most of them dying by pushing a single button. This single input also typically dispatches your foe in an extremely brutal fashion. Its fun at first, but after a while it loses its spark. Especially when there is no need to grasp the deeper concepts unless you want to earn a higher medal rank.
The platforming sections are just as bad. Often times Shadow of the Beast uses the same handful of tricks to keep you playing. More often than not you need to either climb something, go down something or jump across some things. Failure, which is pretty common from so so controls and terrible design choices, takes you to a continue screen where you basically have unlimited retries, if you’re willing to use potions or consume souls.
Thankfully the puzzles can be a lot of fun, requiring a bit of through or understanding to accomplish, though some design choices are baffling. One part I got stuck required you to climb up a closed door to an upper area where you could obtain a new power to get past the puzzle behind the door. The issue is that there is a stand, which the second you step on starts a cutscene, that allows you to open the door. It’s too easy to overlook the cutscene, a clue that you’re suppose to go up there, for the prompt to use the key and open the door. Especially when the pitch black room and preceding flames suggest there is a puzzle to solve, instead of simply lacking a power you get from above.
Even all this would be fine if there was more substance in Shadow of the Beast. Even with some exploration, backtracking and confusion over how to do the puzzles, it took me a little over two hours to finish the game on normal. This doesn’t include doing everything, but even then you’re looking at an experience under 10 hours.
Shadow of the Beast is bad to the point where there are no redeeming aspects. The story is uninspired, with most of the plot being revealed in unlockable cutscenes or following the competition of a level. The combat system is extremely basic and little more than a one trick pony. Combine this with some infuriating puzzles and an experience that can be completed in under two hours and you have a title that is hard to recommend to anyone.
[Editor’s Note: Shadow of the Beast was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]