Title  : Shadowgate Classic
Platforms  : Game Boy Color
Publisher  : Kemco
Game Rating  : 7.5
Review by  : Ken Gagne

The release of the Game Boy Color introduced a system functionally on par with the original 8-bit Nintendo, prompting many companies to port NES classics to the handheld for a new generation of gamers to enjoy. One such game is Kemco's Shadowgate Classic, which, despite showing its age, is still moderately fun. 

Long ago, the council of sorcerers known as the Circle of Twelve banished one of their own, the evil Warlock Lord. Now, centuries later, he has freed himself from his imprisonment, and only you, a prophesied descendent from the Line of Kings, can bring ruin to his dark schemes. 

Journey through Castle Shadowgate in a first-person perspective, a room or scene at a time, similar to Myst. An action, such as "look" or "use", is chosen from a menu, followed by an item in either the player's inventory or in the current scene. There are puzzles to solve, items to acquire, and foes to defeat before reaching the final confrontation in this puzzle genre rarely seen in the last decade. 

The graphics are equivalent to the NES version of Shadowgate, and often more colorful. Since the scenes inspected are still-life, there is no action or moving sprites. Some secret items or passages are observable only to the keenest of eyes, due to a lack of size or detail; but mostly the game's puzzles are well-represented by the graphics. 

The music is simple, repetitive, and occasionally grating. The tune changes when a monster is encountered, or to warn that your torch is guttering and needs replacement. Sound effects are minimal, as there is little action for them to accompany. 

The interface was obviously designed for the computer. Moving items between inventories is tedious, and the cursor control is sometimes imprecise, despite its slow speed. However, the design is simple, and does provide some handy shortcuts, so playability doesn't suffer. 

The most frustrating aspect of Shadowgate is the lack of sense to the puzzle solutions. Scene obstacles are overcome by using the proper item from the inventory, but the interaction between the two has neither rhyme nor reason. It usually comes to trying everything that may (or may not) work, or consulting an answer book. Apparently such logic was uncommon in puzzle games of Shadowgate's era. 

For those with patience, Shadowgate Classic remains the entertaining game it always has been, while giving gamers something to eagerly await: this summer's release of Shadowgate: The Trials of the Four Towers, for Nintendo 64.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 22-Mar-99