Monday, 15 October 2012

Beyond Shadowgate (TurboGrafx-CD)

Beyond Shadowgate title screen
Whoa, right away I know I'm onto a winner with this one. The title screen shows a guy standing on a ring of skulls, pissing all over a dragon and cheering.

Today on Super Adventures, I'm taking a look at Beyond Shadowgate, on the TurboGrafx. This one was a request, and is apparently the sequel to famously cruel 1987 adventure game Shadowgate, which I haven't played and know next to nothing about.

The intro (probably) spoils the ending of the first game, with a voice-over telling a tale of daring and high adventure, about a young hero facing off against a warlock and his mighty behemoth to save the world!

But we're not playing as that guy.

Nope we're playing as his descendant, Prince Erik the Miserable.

Prince Erik is sailing home to take the throne after the assassination of his father, the King, so he does actually have a reason to be mopey. It doesn't help that the assassin is still at large, and he's probably a target himself.

But as he leaves the boat, two guards arrest him, claiming that the assassin has been found... and has fingered the Prince as the one who hired him!

So they immediately drag the heir to the throne off and lock him away, while they prepare for his execution. After all, if you can't trust the confession of a traitor and a murderer with a vendetta against the suspect's family, who can you trust? With rock solid evidence like that, a trial would just be a waste of everyone's time.

And now I'm locked in a dungeon. How depressing.

The first Shadowgate is a first person adventure game, where you select commands from a list to interact with the world. In this though I've got direct control of my character, and I can walk around, duck, and punch.

I tried to examine the straw, seeing as it's the only thing in here, but annoyingly the duck and punch buttons only seem to be good for ducking and punching. Somehow I get the feeling his hand's going to give way before this stone wall does, so I'm obviously missing something here.

Oh there you go, I've figured out how to cycle through commands, and access the inventory. Looking at those icons, I'm assuming I can look at things, talk to people, and use objects. And it just so happens that my sister has smuggled in a match for me to use!

Did they even have matches back in ye olde fantasy times? You know what, I don't even care, because I'm about to make a daring prison break!


Well, it almost worked! I just needed to be a little closer. The game played a sparkly little  'you solved the puzzle!' jingle when I set the straw on fire so I'm pretty sure this is the correct solution.

Whoa, this game does not fuck around. One mistake was enough to get my hero executed. I guess that bucket to the gut took the fight out of him.

I started it again, and this time around I knocked the guy out, grabbed his bucket and keys, and escaped out of the door.  

Outside I ran into Prince Erik's ghost dad, who used his ghost powers to knock the guards out, before warning Erik of a far greater threat looming within the walls of Shadowgate. Erik looks weirdly unfazed by all this though. Perhaps he's unimpressed with the King's voice actor, or maybe he's just annoyed that the guy could have apparently broken him out of there at any time.

The dead King promises that he'll help when he can, before disappearing back into the floor. So if I ever find myself getting my ass kicked by another guard, I'll know he's around, watching... and doing nothing about it.

Right, now I'm in a corridor in front of my cell, with an exit to the right, and two more doors over to the left. I guess I'll see what's behind door number 1.

Ugh. I think I picked the wrong door.

He stopped for a moment to laugh in my face after every stab, so I was able to get a punch or two of my own in. But three holes in the gut and it was all over.

Oh shit! Not the kind of thing you want to jump on your screen when you're playing at night.

Well, I guess there's no need for an execution this time. The crowd of cheering assholes will just have to go and find their schadenfreude elsewhere. Fortunately I saved though, so no progress lost. I like how it uses a floppy disk as the save icon by the way, despite the console saving to internal memory. Floppy disks should be the universal symbol of saving data forever, in my opinion.

Right, let's try door number 2.

Oh sorry, I didn't know anyone was in here!

I figured I'd sneak up to the torturer and hit him while his back was turned, but it didn't work out. A got a few smacks from his whip, then woke up just in time for my execution. I suppose violence isn't the answer to all my problems.

Maybe I can get something out of this hole in the w... nevermind.

To be honest, this made me laugh out loud. This game's so damn cruel that even the wall kills you instantly. Most times I've played a point and click adventure with a killable protagonist I just ended up pissed off, but somehow I'm just finding this hilarious. I'll give it time though, I'm sure the joke will get old.

And then the exit on the right let to more guards. So my options are
  • A room with a guard, 
  • A room with a torturer.
  • A room with two guards.
It would have been nice if those dead guards outside my cell hadn't evaporated, so I could grab a sword of my own. Though now that I think about it, I did pick up a bucket. It's an adventure game, I need to use my head here and think this through.


A persistent drip, a puddle of water, it's all so obvious now! But Erik refuses to use the bucket, so that plan's going nowhere.

The trouble with the game having combat and puzzles, is that I don't know which one is going to get me get past this. I've gotten Erik stabbed to death seven times now trying to knock out these guards, and I'm starting to feel like an idiot for trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.


I actually managed to beat the guy! Punching was the answer!

Examining the prisoner revealed that he's a 'few agonized gasps away from death', so I need to get him out of that steampunk seat somehow, and fast.

I'm punching as hard and as fast as I can, but this contraption just isn't coming apart. I have figured out why I was losing all those fights earlier though, as he punches much faster when I hold the button down.

I couldn't save him in the end, though he did hang on just long enough to whisper one last message to me before dying. "Rosebud." Seriously.

My new rapid fire combat technique sorted out the guard behind door #1, and I was able to steal his pepper from the table. Plus I found another conspicuous puddle of water. Bucket still didn't work on it though.

Right, I'm going to try again to get that bloke out of the chair. Maybe he's only half-dead.

Oh shit! I was only gone two minutes!

Searching the body got me nothing, and the rope is tied up tight, despite his weight loss. I get the feeling I was meant to do something here and screwed it up, seeing as I've come out of this situation entirely empty handed, though there's no way to know.

Awesome, I've managed to actually rescue someone! Well, I opened the door for him anyway. The place is still probably crawling with guards... and man eating slime. Poor guy probably won't make it past the next corridor.

The old man dropped his ping pong bat (did they even have ping pong bats back in ye olde fantasy times?), which increases my item count to four! Though the only one I ever get any use out of is the keys to open up these doors.

Damn, a little further down the corridor I reached a dead end with a trap door, but the trap door ain't budging. Maybe if I can get that chain off the wall, I can use it to pull it open somehow. It's a big obvious item so there's a good chance it's used for something.

Oh for fuck's sake! Yeah, turns out the trap door waits a bit, then opens downwards. When I reloaded and tried pulling the hatch up again, it opened downwards by itself after a few seconds and I was able to take the ladder down instead. Which was a bit slower, but got me to the bottom with my legs intact.

At the bottom of the ladder I found myself in a mysterious cave, full of crystals. Oh, and this little dinosaur thing that jumped up out of nowhere and took poor Erik's leg off in one bite. Our hero looked mildly concerned for a moment, then died of blood loss. The end.

I tried loading it up and punching him. Then I reloaded and tried the pepper (no idea why I thought that'd work), then I tried hitting with a bucket, stabbing him with a bit of quartz crystal, then punching him some more. It ended with Prince Miserable missing a leg every time. I'm getting the feeling I'm not meant to be going this way yet.


Out of desperation I tried throwing Erik down a different hole, but this time it didn't kill him, just trapped him in a room with a giant man eating plant. Well, there's a small pipe in the wall on the right, but we both know I'm not going to get him there alive.

I got him through the pipe alive! And then got attacked by this weird creature.

Punching didn't work, so I immediately switched to plan B: the pepper. Which actually did the job! Killed the thing dead. No idea why I thought that'd work, or why the developers thought that anyone else would think that'd work, but there you go. I just solved a puzzle with an item instead of my fists, for the first time since using the match on the straw to get out of the cell.

And now I'm free! Free to explore this strange cave filled with crystals and... hang on, I feel like I've done this before somehow.

Yep, there's ol' legbiter, right where I left him. I'd just come down on the other side of this screen this time.

I wonder where ghost dad is while all this is happening. Off doing something way more important than saving his kingdom's last hope from constantly getting his leg torn off it seems.

I think I'll quit this here before I end up with too many screenshots. I mean I could find a hundred other ways to get Prince Miserable killed before getting out of this dungeon, and I'd end up wanting to make little animated gifs of all of them.

Beyond Shadowgate actually looks like it could be an interesting game, with decent graphics, solid controls, and a CD quality soundtrack. But I had one major problem with it (beyond all the punching), and that's that I never felt that the game was making sure I had all the right items on me before proceeding.

So far all I've needed has been the keys and the pepper, and I've no idea if rescuing the prisoners has affected anything. I definitely didn't need to use the ping pong bat to get into the caves. I don't really mind all those random deaths due to things I had no way to know about beforehand, because it was usually done for a joke and I could just reload afterwards. But if I ended up getting stuck later just because I'd gone past a point of no return without bringing the bucket or the quartz etc. out with me, then that'd be pretty unforgivable for an adventure game.

If you've got any opinions about Beyond Shadowgate or how much I fail at it, or a game request for me, feel free to leave a comment.


  1. There is a PC game that is pretty good and i think you would like it, give "WEEN The Prophecy" a try. Ive already played it 3 times and it never gets old.

  2. Hey I've got a request, give one of the Space Quest games a play. Preferrably one after 3, when they started making them with VGA graphics and voices, I can't stand EGA. I know the SQ series is legendary and been reviewed to death, but I've played all of them through multiple, multiple times and I think their sense of humor would fit yours well. Also the VGA versions suit being GIF-ed well (especially the deaths, gotta love those old sierra murder screens, there's a way to die on nearly every screen). The main reason I suggest them though, is that they are pretty good about making puzzles that make at least some kind of strange distorted sense, and you can never advance too far without the right stuff, usually because there's almost always a way to find your way back to get something you need, and if there isnt, theres either a way around it, or you simply can't advance without it.

  3. I think I played a Space Quest game once. All I can remember about it though is it kept killing me off and calling me a pantload.

    But hey, I'll stick it on the list anyway. Plus everything else people have mentioned. Man, if I had a penny for every game on my request list... I'd have 42 pennies right now!

  4. I'll make it easy for you, play Space Quest 6 (or "VI", if you swing that way), it has the least plot-connection to the previous games out of the series, the easiest interface and some of the easiest puzzles with the least amount of difficult deaths, and though the last third of the game is kind of hard for some people, we all know you wont bother to play that far anyway.

    Here's a free tip, when you get stuck in the ground in the middle of the street in the first 15 minutes of the game and the announcer laughs at you and says your life's destiny has been leading up to this point, just use the hand tool and click the droid that walks closest to you in the background to get out. That way we'll at least get to see you play the first couple of screens. You may be surprisingly good at metroid but I have my doubts youll even get past the first world in any of the famous adventure games.

    Yes that was a challenge. Get to it.

  5. Oh, and do me a favor, try and find some way to work this picture into your next review.

    I know you want to know what it is. Don't be afraid. It's just a picture of He-man. Probably.

    1. I would, but it's got a bigger filesize than the average entire game post. Plus I don't wanna.

  6. It's good to see that the traditions of Shadowgate were maintained: stupid, stupid deaths, and the Reaper surprise. It took me and a friend maybe a year and a half to beat the original game, off and on, even with a walkthrough for a different version. Granted, that had less to do with its difficulty and more with youthful stupidity and not knowing enough English, but we still died so many times I was able to list the ways off the top of my head. Actually, hang on.

    27. Drat.

    Shadowgate was murderous, and that made it better. I doubt we'd have been as interested if the game had been safe and kid-friendly. Maybe not even if we'd been killing monsters instead of the player character. The game had a "try again" button that made dying a kind of morbid slapstick. In fact we accidentally used it to glitch past a puzzle. The Reaper was just right, scary enough to scar (no thanks to the music - ) but not scary enough to stop me from playing. It's great when a game makes dying interesting, it's often really bland for something we see so much.

    The scythe guy gave me an *excellent* fright later on. Most of the deaths just give a short default message, but if you jump from a great height, the game replaces it with "The Reaper Man stands below, waiting to catch you." It may not sound like much, but when you're used to and waiting for a different message, yeesh! And that's where TV Tropes got its article for nonstandard game overs. Shadowgate's sister game, Uninvited, also had a game over screen that just showed a blood-red skull, but it had one specific death, a ways into the game, where the skull would be present and evil and AAAAGH IT WAS REAL ALL ALONG, every game over you've had so far suddenly got creepier.

    Not that I've really played Uninvited. Its normal death message is in quotes and I might've figured that the skull's there to say it. Anyway, that's enough of a nostalgia bomb.

    1. And yeah, I do have a problem with spewing up a novel every time I open my mouth. I'm working on it.


Semi-Random Game Box