About a week ago I found out that Shadowgate started life as a game for the Macintosh. I was probably unaware of this since I never actually owned a Mac or used one for more than about an hour. Shadowgate is one of those games that I saw in just about every NES video game guide. The game seemed to be at least marginally interesting. Shadowgate is a point-and-click adventure, which is really just one step up from a text adventure, and all that means is that instead of just getting a description of the room you’re in, you get a description of the room you’re in and a picture of the room you’re in. A picture you can poke, prod, and explore.

Shadowgate tasks you, some guy whose name I forget, to enter some wizard’s castle, whose name I also forget, to solve puzzles in a precise sequence to simultaneously prevent him from summoning some crazy netherworld beastie and become king of the land. And trust me, when I say precise sequence, I mean precise sequence. More often than not, if you do the wrong thing then you = dead, which makes the game slightly more frustrating. Try to get the dragon’s treasure without having a shield = you dead. Break the wrong mirror (there are three) = you dead. Go through a trap door without tieing off a rope to lower yourself down = you dead. Don’t have the mundane item that’s the answer to the obtuse riddle the sphinx-lady gives you = you dead. You let your torch go out = you dead.

You die. A lot.

That’s partially understandable, if you didn’t die and restart from your last save so often, the game wouldn’t seem very long. The constant deaths and restarting the game increased replayability at the cost of broken controllers and sleepless nights spent wondering what to put in Bottle 3.

Knowing all of this, I still wanted to give the game a try, but to this day I’ve never seen the NES incarnation ‘in the wild’. Fortunately, a Game Boy Color port (Shadowgate Classic) was released some years after the NES faded into history. I played it almost constantly for about a week, trying to catch up on the several year old story, before the puzzles became too obtuse for me to solve without resorting to online assistance.

Was it everything that I psyched myself up to believe it was? No, not really. Was it a good game? Up until the part where the clues range from non-helpful to nonexistent, then it became slightly annoying. But I was too invested to put the game down, so I hinted my way through the last 5% or so of the game. It was worth it.

One Response to “Shadowgate”

  1. [...] play a game like Shadowgate and you might think: “That was fun, but I’d like to play more games like this. A game [...]

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