First Impressions - Shadowgate (2014)

You're going to be seeing this guy a lot if you're new to this sort of game

I never played any of the older versions of Shadowgate. I never played the original 1987 PC version or the popular 1989 NES version, nor did I play any of the sequels. So why on Earth am I playing this 2014 remake of a classic adventure game?

I actually only stumbled across Shadowgate thanks to Lori and Corey Cole, the developers of the classic Sierra adventure game series, Quest for Glory. During one of their updates for their Kickstarter project, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, the Coles gave a shout-out to the project and when I learned that ICOM were behind Shadowgate, it piqued my interest (ICOM were the guys behind another oldschool game I enjoyed called Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.

The original game was perhaps a bit before my time, as my most active gaming years were during the early 90s, but the screenshots I looked at reminded me of some of the Legend Entertainment adventure games I used to play such as Frederik Pohl's Gateway or Companions of Xanth. So I took the plunge and backed the project and I'm now playing the result of Zojoi's labours. Shadowgate happens to be the third completed game I backed via a Kickstarter, after Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded and Moebius: Empire Rising (Broken Age doesn't count since it's technically half-finished ;)).

So I've played the game for a few hours now and many of you are probably wondering, how is it?

What I like

  • Graphics: I really like the painted backgrounds and characters in the game. True the game has very simple animations but I'm a big sucker for good artwork.
  • Music: Rich Douglas has done a great job bringing the classic NES Shadowgate soundtrack into the 21st century. "But you never played the NES Shadowgate!" you're probably exclaiming. That is true, but I've done my research and have checked out a few videos of the original NES game. Rich Douglas uses the main Shadowgate theme as a leitmotif in many of the tracks, which is a technique that many great movie composers (e.g. John Williams) employs, and something that I can't get enough of.
  • Retro mode: The retro mode for Shadowgate isn't quite as involved as what Lucasarts did with The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, for example, but they have added some nice touches with respect to scene transitions, 8-bit music and the typewriter-like dialogue.

What I don't like

  • Plot: The plot seems to be your typical fantasy fare, at least so far. It probably wasn't such an issue back in the 80s but it's definitely starting to get long in the tooth in the 2010s.
  • Difficulty: This is probably my biggest issue with the game and before you say it, yes, I know this game is meant to be hard. Not only is it based off an old computer game (which are notorious for their difficulty) it was apparently a difficult game for its time too. To Zojoi's credit they've given you the ability to choose different difficulty levels and there's even a talking skull that can provide you hints every so often. Yet, even though I've selected the easiest difficulty and I'm taking as many hints from the skull as I can, I'm still managing to get stuck at certain parts. It doesn't help that you essentially have a time limit to figuring out puzzles too as you only have a limited number of torches and when it's lights out, it's Game Over. This is also coming from someone who used to play games in the 80s and 90s so I can't imagine what it'd be like for a younger gamer.


I like the game's aesthetic and I respect the fact that Zojoi have tried to make the game more accessible to gamers who never played the original games (I guess you'd have to if you wanted to capture more of the market). However, the game's oldschool interface and oldschool difficulty may be a bit too much to bear for those not familiar with these style of games and there have been many times where I've been tempted to throw in the towel.

[ LINK: Official Shadowgate website ]