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Released: 1990
Company: Kemco-Seika
Genre: Role-Playing

One of the common features about an RPG is that it draws you into the world it creates. Why else would it be called a Role Playing game? Kemco-Seika took this idea to a whole new level in releasing Shadowgate, the first of what would be three first-person perspective RPGs. It took the focus off the hack-and-slash, and placed it on puzzle-solving. While this helped make Shadowgate an immensely popular game, in the long run it caused a few problems.

The technical aspects of this game are pretty average. Despite the fact that the various menus limit the size of a room to about 1/4 of the screen space, the graphics are surprisingly detailed. These folks definitely knew they wouldn't have much space to work with and made the best of it. Music is also pretty good, but not without its flaws. While much of the music sounds nice, none of it is all that long. With all of the time you'll be spending trying to figure everything out, repetitive music will not help your efforts. If anything, it might even distract you. No sounds to speak of really; the only real sounds are the "whoosh" when you go into a room, and the rumble when a door is opened.

The play control, also, is good enough for the job. You're allotted an infinite amount of time to make a move, so hit detection and such isn't very important. The cursor does move pretty slow, though, and the "Use" command requires you to use accurate snytax, or else you waste time. And one command, "Leave," can't be used at all. This is especially maddening because late in the game you supposedly have to lighten your load to cross a rickety bridge. Granted, there is a way to get around this problem, but the point is if it's there, why can't we use it?

The major aspect of this game, however, is the challenge. If you could beat this game without any help, Mensa should welcome you with open arms. Items as innocuous as a broom might be the only thing that stands in your way of entering an important room. Innocent actions like clicking on a well instead of the bucket therein will kill you and throw you back a room. The damage to your progress isn't as bad as the frustration you'll feel because you were one pixel off when you pointed at something. Another important facet is that of torch economics. True, it does add to the realism of the game when you're forced to search for torches and keep them lit, but on the other hand, it's a big momentum killer. It really distracts you to have to light a torch every 5 minutes.

But the one thing that makes - and breaks - this game is its enjoyability. Shadowgate is tre=uely a game where the journey outshines the destination. If you don't use a walkthrough for this game, you'll be spending literally hours trying to figure out every puzzle (some of which a really obscure). On the other hand, once you finish, every puzzle has been solved, every riddle answered, and thus every reason to play this game again is squelched. There's virtually no replay value to Shadowgate whatsoever, except maybe racing against the clock to see how fast you can complete it. And believe me, once you know all the answers, it's well within the realm of possibility to go from start to finish in under half an hour.

Shadowgate will do all it can to keep your interest for weeks, but only because the programmers realized that once the game is beaten and all the mysteries are solved, it's dust-farming time.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 12
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 15
Overall Score: 64%