Shadow of the Beast – Nostalgia is best left in the past


You know what happens if you play too much Dungeons and Dragons after playing Super Mario? You end up making Shadow of the Beast.

The game follows the adventures of a mute beast/monster/hero called Aarbron who lopes across this side scroller/platformer hacking his enemies apart with his wolverine claws in various locations like Swamps of Decay and Plains of Despair. After a while I started playing ‘Let’s invent the next level name.’ I became unerringly good at it. My own one was The Decrepit Forest of Forgotten Hopes and Entrails.

There is a certain amount of RPG to this in that you can purchase talismans with mana and upgrade your abilities so that you can tackle the ever more diverse enemies and hack them into increasingly smaller bits by chaining your moves together that will earn you more mana so that you can buy more talismans and carry on the cycle.

Basically each level follows a broadly similar pattern: leg it from left to right, kill a bunch of dudes, jump from platform to platform, kill more dudes, kill boss. I played a bunch of levels like Graves of Depravity, Pits of Torture and Fields of Eyeballs (these are not real levels, I just made them up!) and they all follow exactly the same pattern (see above)…if you die, it doesn’t matter because you can spend an innocent soul to bring yourself back. It is not explained why this would be bad… so I just went ahead and did it and I still don’t feel bad about it. Maybe the game developers are offing people in the real world.

I understand that Shadow of the Beast is based on a game that was first released on the Amiga in 1937 (or something), but I genuinely had no idea why I was doing anything, what the purpose of it all was and who Aarbron was meant to be. He seems to be really good at killing people, runs funny and needs to visit a dentist, like, now… but aside from that, he doesn’t say anything and neither does anyone else so I feel no connection to him or his plight or purpose. This would be okay if it was an amazing platformer with added fighting, but it’s neither a decent fighting game nor a decent platformer. The fighting is too basic and the platforming feels dated.

I played the original (which is included) and it is an ugly, difficult to control and dull game that takes an inexplicably long time to load (an Amiga game on the PS4!). I get that back in the day this was the monkey’s nuts but puh-lease: even with next-gen pretty graphics, an improved control system and fluid animation Shadow of the Beast is still an ugly, difficult to control and dull game. Play this and then play Rayman Legends and tell me I am not wrong. This is the future, people, and we deserve better games than this dull and narratively dead platformer.

stars1 because it’s cheap.
Heavy Spectrum
Playstation 4
£11.99 (18+)