Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shadow of the Beast II

I have a weird story about Shadow of the Beast. One time I was playing random roms at my brother's house while he was on the phone with a friend of ours. Our friend hears the sounds coming from the stereo and asks “are you playing Shadow of the Beast?” My brother asks me, and I say that I don't know because I didn't even stop read the title. So, our friend goes on to describe the game, and as it turns out I was in fact playing Shadow of the Beast. I promptly forgot about the game because it wasn't interesting any in way, and that is probably how I unwittingly purchased the game's sequel, Shadow of the Beast II  for Genesis.

It's not very often that I feel comfortable declaring a game an irredeemable nigh unplayable mess, but for Shadow of the Beast II, I don't feel conflicted about this description at all. There just isn't anything that I like about it. It, and the entire three-part series, was originally developed by Reflection Interactive, the company later responsible for the Driver series, for the Commodore Amiga. The Genesis ports were done by the WSJ Designs, whom has done basically nothing else. While the Amiga version is apparently the preferred version, the differences are mostly cosmetic, and it still suffers from the same awful design.


I'm having a difficult time deciding where to start complaining about this game, probably because figuring out what you're supposed to do in the game is completely unexplained. I'm sure there is some flowery story tucked away in a manual somewhere, but when you start the game you don't know what your goal is, where you are going, or what you are doing. You play as some caveman with a ball-and-chain for a weapon standing in front of a fancy backdrop. The game has a free roaming structure, so you are able to go any direction you want, but who knows where you're supposed to actually go.

Going right, you run into some other cavemen who tell you to fuck off then throw spears at you. It quickly becomes apparent that the combat sucks. Between the lack of enemies telegraphing their attacks and your abilities just aren't good versatile enough to avoid damage.  Some of the cavemen hide in the trees and are easy to stop, but you can't hit them until they come down from the trees.  It's even worse trying to avoid damage from flying enemies that just suicide dive into you. If you're climbing a rope and there are enemies flying at you from above or below, which will happen, you can only attack horizontally, so you are boned. I got past the cavemen, then I fell into river and was killed by some bats.


That's when I found out the game doesn't have lives or continues. You get one shot and it is all or nothing. That's bad enough for a big sprawling platformer where enemies can kill you, but add to that the puzzle elements and it just gets completely retarded. Say you go left at the beginning of the game.  First you are assaulted by trees that throw bombs.  Then, you come across a guy who is being pulled away by an enemy, and if you save him he gives a useless tip on a puzzle. If he dies you miss the hint forever, no big deal.  

I'm on to you.
You get to the puzzle and it's one of those terrible crane game things. This wouldn't be too bad if the game just let you control the crane like any reasonable game would have you do, but Shadow of the Beast II is not reasonable. You control it by hitting three switches on a wall. One controls the horizontal, another controls the vertical, and the last controls the grip of the claw. It is extremely annoying to do anything precisely, especially since one hit will make it move on direction, a second will stop, and a third will make it move in the opposite direction. On top of all that nonsense, you can hit one switch easily by crouching, another by standing, but the last you have to jump to hit, and you can easily accidentally hit both the top and middle one at the same time, completely screwing up your plans.


Worse of all, if you mess up a puzzle, you are completely screwed and progress in the game is completely halted. If you fuck up a puzzle, it is essentially game over because you cannot retry puzzles, so the only thing you can do is kill yourself and start the entire game over. Who thought that was a good idea? Did nobody test the game before it was released and tell the creators that it was bullshit? I can't think of anything nice to say about the game. Unless it was a completely different game, I don't understand how Shadow of the Beast II could have been a well-loved Amiga game.

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