Switch version tested
Review code provided
Shadowgate returns to Nintendo for more mind-boggling, punishing, role-playing adventure fun. But can a 30-year-old classic find a place on the modern market? Remastered by developer Zojoi, Shadowgate was first recreated and released on PC in 2014 and now comes back to Nintendo with a Switch release. Set in the mystical land of Tyragon, you are the last in a line of kings tasked with entering Castle Shadowgate and putting a stop to an evil warlock’s plans for world conquest.
Shadowgate is a point and click adventure that’s heavily inspired by old school fantasy and adventure books, anyone who has played or even heard of D&D or watched Nightmare as a child will know roughly what to expect, enter a room, a brief description of the current scenario will appear and from there you look around and take the appropriate actions to progress. To stand any real chance of success Shadowgate requires the player to search every nook and cranny of the dark castle, use wits, logic and some experimentation to overcome the puzzles and monsters that lurk within. Collecting items such as scrolls, books, rope, torches, keys and any other items will be a top priority. Items have various uses and can be combined to form new tools to help you. Situations and puzzles can sometimes be handled in more than one way and in various orders so taking the time to experiment with your loot will increase your chances of survival greatly.
Survival is the key word as death comes swift in Shadowgate. Robert Tepper wasn’t lying, there’s no easy way out! Don’t be shocked to find yourself becoming lunch for a dragon, buggered by a goblin or just falling off a creaky old bridge, this usually happens when everything is going smoothly and can be frustrating at first but like any adventurer worth their salt, perseverance will win the day….eventually. Even the darkness will claim you so you will always need to keep a lit torch to hand, these burn down over time and if it goes out the reaper will be tapping you on the shoulder immediately. You will soon come to learn that the most obvious option is not always the right one so don’t be disheartened if you find yourself needing to backtrack or retreat to think things through or search around a bit more for something that could prove useful, trial and error will play a big part of this adventure.
Shadowgate has a traditional plot that is riddled with clichés by today’s standards but 30 years ago these story points were right on the money and carry with them a grand feeling of nostalgia. Presented in gorgeous hand-drawn art and featuring a catchy music score that is the epitome of classic fantasy to set the mood, you begin your adventure in a wet and miserable entranceway that would make Queen Bavmorda proud. The full story comes to life within the castle walls with each room oozing with atmosphere and telling its own tale, books and scrolls are on hand to read which fill in some of the deeper plot points and can also reward you with additional hints and crafty spells.
Shadowgate in its original form was a punishing affair and thankfully that element has not been lost on the remaster, as a kid this was one of the first adventure games I ever played and arguably it is responsible for getting me into the genre altogether. Having a pen and paper handy to write down clues and routes through the twisting caverns, catacombs, hallways etc. kept me busy and trying again after each death scene. Thankfully the remaster has added a few tools to make itself more accessible to a range of player skills. Right from the start, you can choose a normal or classic mode, this helps set the tone for players experience with the genre, within each of these categories are a range of difficulty settings which will greatly affect the experience. Playing on master difficulty is not for the faint of heart, luckily the puzzles change in various ways through each setting so there is plenty of replay value if you want to start off easy with the hints activated then challenge yourself on harder settings as you become more familiar with the castle. Exploration is easier to keep track of too thanks to a handy map that will highlight each room as you discover it and show which rooms branch off in various directions. This comes in especially handy if you find yourself needing to backtrack or return to a previous location without fumbling around aimlessly while your torch diminishes.
Being a point and click adventure you will spend a lot of your time in your inventory. This takes the form of an item wheel that separates items into categories such as basics, books, spells etc. Items can also be hot keyed so if you find yourself hitting every crack in the wall with a hammer in a quest for hidden rooms you can save yourself some time in accessing said mallet. The touch screen also features for the Switch but sadly this feels a bit half-hearted in execution but does speed up checking around loot-heavy rooms. The interface, in general, does feel a bit clunky at first but soon becomes second nature and having a bit of extra time to think about what approach to use instead of just hammering buttons will aid you in the long run.
Shadowgate harkens back to an older time in gaming, before the days of Dark Souls being used when describing any game that presents the slightest challenge, adventure role-playing games were a slower, more methodical and challenging affair that really paved the way for some of the most beloved titles and mechanics of today. Although efforts have been put in place to ensure this reimagining is accessible to a larger audience the title is still not for everyone. Favouring slower paced gameplay for the inquisitive minds, Shadowgate is a great title for anyone who has a love for classic dark fantasy and enjoys a solid challenge. If you enjoyed the original back in 1987 then this is a trip down memory lane you will want to take, especially with Zojoi adding the original retro music, text and pixel transitions as an option. The handheld play is beneficial, taking the time to figure out a puzzle or two on your lunch break will see a progression in your quest in short bursts, helping to lower any frustration especially on harder settings. It’s always great to see a classic be given a new lease of life and Shadowgate releasing on Switch feels like a homecoming, with such a great setting and promising world it would be nice to see more entries in the series appear in the future.
TBG Score: 8.5/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One X, Mobile, PC
Release Date: 11/04/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, RPG, Puzzle
Publisher: Abstraction Games
Download link: eShop