The original Shawdowgate for the Mac and NES was one of those games that tormented my 8 year old self. It was creepy, scary, and so unlike any of the standard platformers I was used to playing at that age. I was never able to beat it, seeing as I was only able to play it in fits and starts at my local library. It was also brutally difficult.
Almost 30 years later, I have found my chance at redemption through the release of “Shadowgate” on iOS by Zojoi Studios. The world of Shadowgate has been wonderfully and lovingly improved and modernized…to a point. This game is still very much the point-and-click adventure from my youth in both mechanics and difficulty. As the player working his way through Castle Shadowgate, you are tasked with exploring every nook and cranny to find clues, solve puzzles and (most importantly) avoiding getting slaughtered along the way.
Controlling movement in this adventure game is well-executed and intuitive with the player using their finger to select the item with which they wish to interact; an option from a wheel then opens up correspondingly. Using the term “movement” however is a bit of a misnomer as the player is shown a scene with which to interact, but usually nothing more. Although there is very little monster movement or animations; these scenes are simply gorgeous. The artwork and sound throughout the adventure are top notch, allowing my adult brain to catch up with child-me’s imagination of what this world must have looked and sounded like. That being said, I have seen this game described as poking a series of beautiful paintings, which is somewhat accurate.
One of the aspects I both appreciated and was disappointed was the lack of change from the original game. Although there were some visual improvements, Zojoi very much left this game as it was made 28 years ago. That is to say that this game is still very, very hard. The world contains many traps and interesting methods for the player to die along their journey; this was pretty standard when this game was created, but is not often the case now. You would be wise to save often. The other area where this game shows it’s age is in the flow of the story.
Shadowgate is a slow burn, and it reflects an era where just playing the game was more amazing than any story it could tell. The modern drive for the content to simply get to more content is simply not met here, but that is tolerable. Shadowgate is a hauntingly beautiful world to explore and take your time to enjoy. As long as the player can rewind their expectations away from instant gratification, there is a wonderful time to be had.