Built upon the foundations of the Amiga original, Shadow of the Beast returns to the world of gaming under the helm of Heavy Spectrum Entertainment. But is this a return to glory, or simply a failed rememberance?The world of Shadow of the Beast follows the individual called Aarborn, who was kidnapped as a child and turned into a monstrous servant by his captivators. After a close encounter where Aarborn is faced with someone from his past, memories of his human life returns to his mind, and Aarborn embarks on a quest of vengeance to destroy the world that took his life from him.
A prominent issue within the narrative of Shadow of the Beast is that the game relies heavily on visual storytelling, and whilst this gets the point across somehwat, a lot of its messages and details are lost in the fray as a lot of the context is dependent on reading information outside of the main game, which is a shame considering there is some interesting content available that is simply lost on players throughout the main game.The game does contain dialogue to a certain extent, albeit most by enemies, but these otherwordly languages are subtitled in the same language, with players having to spend points to unlock English subtitles in order to get the fullest out of the main game, which is frustrating considering the amount of time and points you’ll be spending on gameplay upgrades alone.
On paper Shadow of the Beast has a pretty solid and detailed premise, but the sheer fact that so much of it is lost during gameplay is such a shame considering the work that has been put into it. The world of Aarborn is fascinating, but if you don’t unlock most of it you’ll finish the game without ever learning a thing about it.Within the contents of Shadow of the Beast it can be said that the presentation is the aspect of the game that’s been paid most attention to, as the game features a wide array of interesting designs and well-designed environments, though sometimes what limited in visual variation. The main presentation of the game is solid, and everything feels grounded within the reality that Heavy Spectrum has set up in this reimagining of the Amiga original.Despite its solid nature, Shadow of the Beast often feels constrained in the sense that it feels like the world is quite limited in what it can achieve. Gameplay is sometimes interrupted by cutscenes that briefly interrupt the side-scrolling nature of the game, though camera work does seem to vary quite a bit in quality throughout these sequences.
My biggest gripe with the game’s presentation would’ve easily been the user interface. Whilst the menu design of the game is set in the style of the game itself, the in-game UI seems to have taken a rather weird modern design, which even features a modern heartbeat monitor on top of our lives count, making the entire design seem entirely out of place in an otherwise consistent presentation.Taking on the same form as the Amiga original, Shadow of the Beast is a combat-based 2D platformer. Setting up for a roughly 3-hour story mode, the remake bases itself upon extreme violence as its gameplay base and main selling point, though a lot of the heart and fun of the original is lost in the fray as the game turns into a platformer with some serious anger management issues.
Making combat its main focus, Shadow of the Beast doesn’t exactly blow expections away in its execution. Despite its focus on combat, the game’s actual mechanics are often clunky, sluggish and at times far too simplistic to offer a fun and varied gameplay experience.You’re encouraged to perform stylish combos and use your special move-set constantly, but the sheer reality is that sticking to the game’s boring main skillset is the most effective way of actually progressing through the game. This comes as even more of a blow as the game’s platforming is as equally frustrating and dull in comparison.
The game also features a selection of boss fights, but the style over substance concept seems to bleed through to these sections. Combat situations are overly simplistic and instructions are everything but subtle, making almost every gameplay aspect of the game overly dissapointing unfortunately.Shadow of the Beast is a good looking game, but ultimately the game comes off as a failed tribute to the original that puts all its money on the wrong horse. Heavy Spectrum’s work on the designs and narrative is admirable, but ultimately Shadow of the Beast is merely a shadow of the original.
The PS4 version of Shadow of the Beast was primarily tested for the purpose of this review