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Impressions: Shadowgate

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Remakes have always been a touchy subject, but lately it seems as if the topic has ignited a whole new inflammatory debate, with all manner of sanctimony attached to every side’s argument. Our very own Chris Kemp decided to tackle this controversy recently, and suffice to say things weren’t exactly rosy. It becomes even more of a problem when you’re dredging up a really old game like Shadowgate, giving it a new paint job and trying to simultaneously appeal to both a new generation and old fans alike. Is this modern remake of a 30 year-old classic up to the task?

For those of you not in the know, the game is a point-‘n’-click affair whose story goes like this: you’re a guy named Jair, who has been foretold in prophecy that he will bring about the destruction of a particularly nasty warlock. The warlock in question lives inside an impossibly large, living castle called Shadowgate, which is filled to the brim with dark magic, evil creatures and death at every turn. Finding and assembling a magical artifact will allow you to realise your warlock-slaying dream, but be prepared for a long and arduous task ahead.

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My first impressions upon booting up Shadowgate were surprising; I admit, I came into this expecting a cherished memory to be butchered. What I found instead was a loving tribute to the game of old with a slew of improvements that complement the original instead of bastardizing it. The game’s new look features a wonderful hand-painted aesthetic that is reminiscent of high fantasy illustrations. The music too is orchestral this time around, invoking memories of the scores of John Williams. Old-timers might miss the NES soundtrack, but the option to revert back to that is present and accounted for, in all its former glory. Finally, the tidbits of voice acting are decent and thankfully not overdone, though the attempts at pronouncing the tongue-twisting names seems slightly forced.

Of course, none of this means jack if the gameplay isn’t up to scratch, and here is where this new iteration of Shadowgate really shines. Those who played the original all those moons ago will appreciate the fact that many puzzles are intact and fiendish as ever. There are a few new ones added to the mix and some slight twists to old ones, but while this may sound like cause for purists to go up in arms, it actually serves the game well and helps balance things out without making the affair too easy. The new inclusion of a guide – a sentient skull amusingly named Yorick – will help ease new players into the game whilst commenting on situations and making sarcastic quips.

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I encountered some minor technical glitches whilst playing the pre-release build, such as the occasional failure to launch properly and random crashes. Hopefully these will be addressed before the game is released this Thursday, the 21st of August.

Despite minor flaws that need to be worked out and a general high level of difficulty which may make it daunting for more casual players, Shadowgate is looking to be a mighty fine adventure romp that manages to pull off the impossible task of appealing to new fans without sacrificing what made it so great in the first place. Keep an eye out for this one, it’s going to be big.

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