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Shadow of the Beast.

Beast title screen

Shadow of the Beast, originally released for the Amiga, is a timeless classic. Superb graphics, fluid scrolling of several parallax layers (two of which cover the entire screen area), and haunting music characterize this premium quality gameplay experience. The game itself is an arcade adventure, with strong emphasis on the arcade element. In all levels, there are sections which you must traverse in a particular order to pick up certain items - a potion which lets you defeat the end-of-level boss, a torch, keys, a spanner, a gun and so on.

As near as I can remember it, the storyline is that the evil Beast Lord has turned you into an animal, and in order to regain your human shape you need to kill him. This is the cue for lots of assorted monster-bashing - and lovely monsters they are, too. There are giant teeth which come out of the ground, bear traps, flying rocks, HUGE bosses that occupy half the screen, and thousands of assorted blobs, insects, floating eyeballs, trolls, trident-wielding orcish beasties, and malicious machines. Although the game is basically a platformer, one of the final levels is a side-scrolling shoot'em up with you wearing a jet-pack, which adds even more variety to an already action-packed game.

If there is one criticism I have to make of SOTB - all versions - it is that the game is just TOO difficult (unless you're using a cracked, trained version!). For instance, at the very end of the second last level, there is a locked door. The key to this door was picked up much earlier on, and there is no way of going back to get it, so if you reach that door without the key, your only option is to abort the game and start again. You also have a pitifully small number of hit points, and only one life. For this reason, the recommended version for ST fans who can't find the real thing is the Flame of Finland CD with the Replicants crack/train (FOF disks 36a and 36b). This won't let you get around the annoying puzzle problems, but it will make you invincible.

In-game screenshot
Underground screenshot
In these screenshots, you can't see the marvelously smooth parallax scrolling effects, but trust me - they're there. The graphics unfortunately lost some colors in the translation from the Amiga (and the playfield area is considerably smaller), but they're still definitely above average.

Music and spot effects are also very good, though only one of the Amiga tunes was rendered across onto the ST's three-channel squeaker.

The ST version appears to be modeled rather after the Atari Lynx version; the title screen in particular is the same (the Amiga's title screen is completely different), and the color reduction of the in-game graphics appears very similar too. However, the level maps (as far as I've played them) are almost identical to the Amiga version's.

Particularly in an emulator, where the long loading times are virtually eliminated, you can really sit down to enjoy this game and its two sequels (which are or will be reviewed separately).

Verdict: Run, do not walk, to the nearest location where you can obtain this game. It is an essential part of ST history and you MUST have it. SOTB only loses a point in the gameplay stakes for being too hard.

Ratings (five stars = maximum)








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