Review: Shadow Of The Beast

Coming some 27 years after Shadow of the Beast first graced the Commodore Amiga, Heavy Spectrum’s Playstation 4 remake turns out to be a surprisingly enjoyable release that doesn’t rely solely on the nostalgia card to succeed.

The original Amiga Shadow of the Beast started life as a graphical tech demo to see what the system was capable of. Eventually this demo ended up being developed into a full game and released by publisher Psygnosis in 1989 to much fanfare. Beast’s detailed sprites, multi-layered parallax backgrounds and sublime soundtrack gave Amiga owners something to brag about to their 8-bit micro or Atari ST owning friends. The game would go on to spawn two sequels, and eventually be ported to a number of different systems creating quite a legacy in the process.

Shadow Of The Beast

When it was announced in 2013 that British-based newcomers Heavy Spectrum would be developing a remake for the Playstation 4, the initial reaction was mixed. A studio comprised of 7 members, Heavy Spectrum all identified as fans of the original Psygnosis release, and wanted to bring it into the current generation to ensure the game’s legacy would continue to live on. As someone who loved the art, but never particularly liked playing the original games, I went into this unsure how I’d find it. Would it prove to be a game capable of standing on it’s own, or another release that relied on nostalgia to drive the experience? I can say that Heavy Spectrum have done a good job of bringing Shadow of the Beast into the modern era, although it’s not without a few rough spots on the way.

Shadow Of The Beast

Shadow of the Beast  is a 2D action adventure with a heavy focus on combat and exploration, along with a handful of puzzles spread throughout the game’s world. Set on the world of Karamoon, it tells of Aarbron’s quest for revenge after being kidnapped as a baby by the tyrant Maletoth, then turned into the titular beast. On the surface the story doesn’t evolve much beyond “find things, fight them, get revenge”, instead the mystery behind the Beast’s story is left in the player’s hands by way of finding hidden Prophecy Orbs. These orbs are spread across the stages as a part of the game’s item hunt, and are crucial towards getting 100% completion on each level.

Shadow Of The Beast

Given the combat focus, Heavy Spectrum have given Aarbron a number of new tricks to go along with his upgraded appearance. In addition to his basic attack, he can stun or throw enemies, as well as block, dodge or parry incoming attacks. Once found, you can also equip your Beast with a number of Talisman that offer enhanced abilities, although sometimes with added drawbacks. Rounding out the toolset are a number of attacks that use the game’s Blood mechanic. Blood is a resource earned by killing enemies, and can then be spent for a variety of benefits, like healing or recharging Aarbron’s Wraith. Accumulate enough blood and it allows the usage of Rage Chains, which triggers a frenzy mode that give you quick-time prompts on either side of the screen to help quickly dispatch his foes.The higher the combo multiplier gets, the better your score, and with it ways to further upgrade the Beast’s abilities or unlock other special features.

Shadow Of The Beast

While the blood resource is central to the game mechanics, it feels like there’s a touch too much emphasis on the bloodletting side of things. While not as up close and visceral as say Mortal Kombat, there are times where Aarbron ends combat bathed in blood, or finding it splattered over the screen. And it’s this last part that feels the most jarring, as I encountered several situations where this splatter effect caused distraction, or worse, rendered me unable to see an incoming enemy leading to Aarbron getting hit (and resetting my multiplier). There’s some stunning environments to explore, however there were times where I felt the overt blood thirst was a little too out of place.

Shadow Of The Beast

The visuals have a familiar feel to them, from the opening on the Grass Plains of Karamoon, to the desert area outside the Hydrath’s Castle. During my playthrough, I spotted several nods to the original games, as well as denizens and environments inspired directly by Roger Dean’s box art. Adding to this is usage of parallax scrolling to help bring depth to the world, although there were times when it caused me some headaches. In some occasions where it ended in a mistimed jump, or other situations where moving to one side of the screen resulted in foreground objects obscuring big chunks of the playfield (and enemies!). With that said, the game moves incredibly smoothly and I never encountered a single moment of slowdown across the entire playthrough, even during some of the more hectic encounters!

Shadow Of The Beast

Those dedicated to blowing through a game as quickly as possible will find themselves hitting the end after a couple of hours on normal difficulty, although you’ll land the worst ending in the process. On top of the different difficulties, every area has leaderboards for speed running, time to complete with 100% collection rate, and high score. There’s also a number of secret encounters in the game that need to be unlocked by performing better in combat, and completing these is key to earning gold or platinum for the stage, and in turn unlock some of the better endings.

Shadow Of The Beast

As a bonus, Heavy Spectrum have included an emulated version of the Amiga Shadow of the Beast as an unlockable extra. Given the difficulty, they’ve kindly added an infinite lives cheat, but also a video runthrough for those who would rather watch someone else do the playing. Along with this, you’re also able to unlock David Whittaker’s soundtrack from the 1989 release to replace the modern in-game music. I have to admit that while the default music suits the game well, I found myself leaning more towards the original soundtrack the moment I could access it.

Shadow Of The Beast

So overall, despite finding the violence a little too much at times, and wanting to see more areas like the Hydrath’s castle with an emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving, I enjoyed my time with Shadow of the Beast. Heavy Spectrum have put together a solid package that has appeal for both fans of the original, and those new to the game. Considering it’s priced less than a movie ticket and popcorn, it’s well worth taking a look at.

Shadow of the Beast is available now on the Playstation Store for $22.95. Review copy provided by Sony Entertainment. Played to completion on Normal difficulty for the purpose of the review.

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blahjediAaron Clement
Tassie based retro gaming guy. Father of 3 and married to the very tolerant Kellie Clement. Coffee powered!

Follow Aaron Clement on Twitter and Instagram

 

 

 

Interview With Justin Hickman: Linking With The Past

Justin_HDRAfter our recent interview with Retro Rich, we go in contact with lifetime gamer Justin Hickman to have a chat about gaming and collecting in general. Once we got a whiff of the gaming awesomeness that Justin had in his possession, we knew we had to arrange an interview and have him share his love of video games and also his very impressive room of collectibles. So brace your jaw, because it will drop to the floor. Here we go!

AUSRETROGAMER [ARG]: So Justin, tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get into gaming?
Justin Hickman [JH]: Hey! I’m 33 years old and have been in to gaming all my life. I started with a hand-me-down Atari 2600, C64 and NES system. I spent countless hours playing Mario, Mega Man, Spy vs Spy, Space Invaders and loved it! At school my friends were really into it too, so this helped fuel my passion for gaming as it was absolutely the norm for me growing up.

ARG: Are you equally into retro and modern/current gaming (or do you have a strong preference for one)?
JH: Being honest, I am a huge fan of both. Retro gaming is of course heavily peppered with nostalgia, however when I played them they weren’t retro! I was just really into gaming as a medium, This mindset has stayed with me so by proxy I am just as happy playing either The Witcher III or A Link to the Past.

The great wall of gaming!
Justin_great_wall

ARG: What is it about old school gaming that you enjoy most?
JH: The obvious one is nostalgia (simple times, happy days), However as with anyone who has a passion for film, music and gaming, I appreciate retro games as an art form. I love modern gaming too but retro gaming (specifically 2D) has more soul – I love the hand drawn sprites and animations that developers managed to squeeze out of restricted hardware with huge limitations. This all adds to the charm and experience that has not been replicated – they also, for the most part, still stand up today (as an example, Super Mario World looks and plays just as well now as it did 24 years ago!).

ARG: You have owned your collection from new (which is amazing!), what inspired you to collect? Did you have foresight or a plan to collect?
JH: I never planned to collect. In fact, I used to trade in (albeit a select few) games when I was younger in order to get other games that I wanted, as this was really the only way to get a game in between birthdays and Christmas. I did however keep certain games as they meant so much to me, especially the Mario and Zelda games. But as a whole, gaming was never a ‘flash in the pan’ for me – I was and still am passionate about it, so I held onto as much as I could! I always wanted to have the option to go back and play my old games. So there was no foresight or planning – It was by pure chance that the games I was into also became some of the most rare/sought after titles.

ARG: We are drooling over your very impressive collection – what are your most prized systems and games?
JH: I’m particularly proud of my Zelda collection, Console wise I have most of them but as a conversation starter the Virtual Boy and PC Engine get the most attention, They both look cool and have much trivia!

You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you? Well, Justin certainly hasn’t!
Justin_Zelda

ARG: Are there any other specific systems and/or games you are still hunting down?
JH: Yes, very much so! Right now, I am still hunting for a boxed Neo-Geo AES, but I don’t want to pay premium for it. Having said that, I probably should, as prices have been steady for a few years now and they won’t get cheaper! Also, I’m still hunting for Zelda Four Swords big box and Earthbound. My biggest problem is that I don’t like paying top dollar – I much prefer to wait and take my time. It makes it even more special when you do pick something up at a reasonable price, even if it took a couple of years to hunt down!

ARG: What is your gaming room (and/or collection) setup like?
JH: I have an room dedicated to it,  and it needs to be as collection is huge! The rest of the house is unassuming, so keeps the missus happy *winks*

ARG: Do you have unopened systems/games? If so, will you ever open them to play?
JH: Yes to both – system and games. I did intend on playing them but as time goes by, I become more hesitant and usually just find loose copies out in the wild. I want to preserve as much gaming history as I can.

The perfect office space!
Justin_arcadecorner

ARG: We hear that the SNES is your favorite retro console – so which retro console is your second fave?
JH: Either the NES or (Japanese) Mega Drive – both were fantastic. The NES brought so many legendary (Nintendo) first party IPs to the table, genre defining with iconic characters and mascots that are still going strong to this day! The Mega Drive had some fantastic arcade conversions and was home to some great shooters. Additionally, the Japanese version (which was superior to the PAL one) had truly stunning artwork on the game cases and they look great on any shelf!

ARG: Do you have a favorite game of all time or a gaming genre you cannot go without?
JH: My favourite games of all time are Super Mario World, Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy 7. Sorry, I know you asked for one! As for a gaming genre I couldn’t live without, it would have to be RPGs. I love a story, character progression and immersion – a good RPG covers all of these quite nicely.

ARG: We cheated in this interview by adding one final question – where can folks get in touch with you?
JH: Yep, sure thing, folks can reach me on Twitter.

Whoa, that was another great chat with a great collector. As we thank Justin for sharing in his gaming past and his vast collection, we walk away thoroughly impressed and can’t wait to see what else Justin adds to his already awesome gaming collection!

 

Rebooting Shadow Of The Beast

SOTB_PS4_PreBeta_04Logo_1445975732Back in 1989, Shadow Of The Beast (SoTB) wowed us gamers on Commodore’s 16-bit powerhouse, the Amiga. With its impressive graphics, awesome parallax scrolling and David Whittaker’s atmospheric score, Reflections/Psygnosis had produced another winner. The game was so successful, it was ported to a number of 8-bit and 16-bit systems.

The original SoTB has aged pretty well and still gets a lot of play time, so when we heard that Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs were going to bring this classic to the modern era (on the PS4), our nostalgic senses went into overdrive. Who would have thought that 27 years after it was released, SoTB would now be enjoyed by a new generation of gamers, while providing some heavy-duty nostalgia for gamers that enjoyed the original all those years ago.

Having recently played the demo and watched the trailer, Weird and Retro’s Aleks ‘Serblander‘ Svetislav told us he was excited to see what the finished game would be like. I know we are not alone in saying that we are super excited that SoTB has been brought into the 21st century on a powerhouse system of this era. How will it compare to the original? Only time will tell. Roll on January 2016!


source: Sony Playstation

Now drool over these screenshots!
SOTB_PS4_PreBeta_03Logo_1445975726

SOTB_PS4_PreBeta_02Logo_1445975721image source: “supplied”

 

Ripping It Up On Tearaway

Tearaway

This is going to be a blasphemous post. If you are scratching your head and wondering why, then let me explain – this site is usually reserved for classic gaming or anything that brings back that intoxicating allure of nostalgia.

Well this time around, this retro gamer has been squarely whacked in the chin with a game that cannot be put down. The game I speak of is none other than the sublime Tearaway. Up until a week ago, my PS Vita sat idly on my desk totally unloved. It is amazing what a week in gaming can do – the Vita now enjoys an abundance of attention and Tearaway has a lot to do with it.

Tearaway is one awesomely imaginative game. It takes a paper aesthetic and uses it as a launching pad for inventive ideas and player creativity. The interactivity within the Tearaway world is a joy to behold – from dispatching scraps (enemies) by piercing the ground beneath them with your fingers, to creating papercraft designs to integrate into the environment. It is absorbing like a dry sponge sucking up water!

Tearaway is a purely addictive adventure 3D platforming puzzle solving game that utilises the PS Vita’s functions perfectly. If you were looking for an excuse to buy a PS Vita, this may be it.

 

 

Best Of The Web: Retro Gaming vs Modern Gaming

Playing video games these days is not quite like it used to be. As funny as this meme may be, it is the current trend in modern gaming. The gulf between old school and current generation gaming has never been greater.

PlayingVideoGames_1980-2000s

Source: cheezburger

CoD: IRL

With a plethora of first person shooters (FPS) in modern gaming, no wonder army cadets are blurring their online experience with real life.

Source: JungleboysTV

 

Retro Video Casino Games

In a matter of minutes, you can go to any one of the thousands of online casino and poker sites like those recommended at Pokersites that have popped up in the last few years – but things weren’t always this simple. Once upon a time, and not too long ago, digital gambling games were extremely limited. Their graphics were rudimentary and there was no way to play for real money. Let us take you on a trip down memory lane with a look at five retro casino and poker games that reigned supreme before the internet revolution! [Read more…]