Shadow of the Beast an Intriguing Experience
I’ve used the word intriguing to describe Shadow of the Beast, but I’m not sure that is a positive thing. Everything about this imagining of the 1992 (1989? – I’ve seen varying dates) title is wonderful. The graphics are obviously improved, and the cut scenes are outstanding. Unfortunately, the odd premise and clunky controls still make Shadow of the Beast a game many won’t want to play, unless they are attempting to scratch that nostalgic itch.
The back story is just odd. Essentially, you are playing as a kidnapped human baby who is experimented on for long periods of time, eventually turning into a beastly killing machine. It was odd in the 90s, and its odd now, and perhaps, a tad disturbing.
The story unfolds in an interesting way, as you – the beast – help your master look for a new human baby to experiment on. As you complete this task, parts of your back story become clear to you, and you understand that (shocker) you were once a human child, and not a monster!
The game plays out in a typical side scrolling / exploration experience. You fight a group of minions, you explore. You fight a group of minions, and you explore. The game is meant to be played time and time again as there are numerous hidden paths that you probably will not find right away, as well as new and differing dialogue trains. A new social component – where you compare level scores with friends – is also designed to make you play again and again, but with these controls, who would?
The controls in Shadow of the Beast are not so terrible that the game is unplayable. They just don’t feel fluid. Jumping is clunky, fighting is clunky, and since these are two pillars of the title, it is incredibly noticeable. The unpredictable controls, however, are just par for the course. I found a lot of this remake was, frankly, unpredictable.
The first thing past fans will notice is that this really isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the original. Although the story remains in tact, other things have been changed to ‘appeal’ to a 21st century audience. Whether these new mechanics work is going to depend on the player and their level of knowledge of the original title. But, if you go in expecting to know what to do in every situation, forget it all. Things are different.
The other problem lies in the games many environmental puzzles. They are so random at times, it creates undue frustration on the player. Some puzzles are just short of brilliant, and finishing them feels rewarding, while others play out in a more ‘trial-and-error’ pattern rather than any real strategic thinking. As you ping pong between these polar opposite puzzle types, the disappointment in the game overall will ultimately become more aggravated.
There is a lot here that many individuals are going to enjoy. Heavy Spectrum has made the game look great, and the cut scenes really are fantastic. Even a few of the boss fights are really memorable! However, the game just falls flat so many times, whether it’s unpredictable and seemingly unfair puzzles, clunky controls that make you miss a jump or fail to land an attack, or just the oddity of the story as a whole. This is a title that will get a variety of scores. It wasn’t for me, but it might be for you.