From left to right: Swedish, American, and French versions

Scaaary eyes

A moderately popular adventure game that began as an ICOM game for the PC, later being ported to the NES with upgraded graphics and music (along with two of their other adventure games, Deja Vu and Uninvited, which all utilize the same engine).  The game is notorious for its puzzles - the solutions are often very obvious or downright silly.  For instance,  you'll have to fight a wyvern at one point to gain a necessary item, but none of your conventional weapons will harm it.  Instead you have to grab a star from the star map in the observatory and throw it; this results in it turning into a fireball that annihilates the monster.  Still, there were examples of goofier puzzles in adventure games of that era (Maniac Mansion's 'wax fruit' puzzle comes to mind).

Shadowgate is driven by a verb-based menu, consisting of eight commands and a small "map" pointing out all of the room's exits.  In the upper right-hand corner is a list of all items and spells in your inventory, and on the left is your view of the current screen.  Also notable is that you'll see a torch burning at the corner of your inventory cards; if your torch goes out you'll die immediately.  For this reason, you'll want to collect all of the torches you come across, and light a new one once your current torch begins running low (the music will change to a sinister-sounding tune shortly before this happens).

Sometimes, you must use your torch to solve puzzles as well

In addition to finding and using items, you'd also have to utilize a number of spells to make your way through.  For instance, the "EPOR" spell pictured above causes the nearby rope to raise up to the small hole in the ceiling, granting you access to the room above (seen to the right).

The library, which you'll find about midway through the game.  Here you'll find several magical spells that you'll need for the puzzles ahead.  It's also notorious for the music that plays there.  As tsr put it, "it sounds like something out of Speed Racer."

Download the Library music (322 kb .mp3 file)

Aside from that tune, though, the rest is actually pretty catchy and matches the atmosphere of the game pretty well.  Here's one of my favorite tunes from the game.

Click here to listen (423 kb .mp3 file)

As with most adventure games, you'll have to solve at least oen riddle along the way.  Shadowgate is no exception.  The sphinx's riddle would vary from game to game, having about six different possible answers, and you'd have to bring him the item he was hinting at in order to continue upstairs.

A cute little hellhound

And now for a bit of trivia about the game:

- The Swedish version of the game is rather infamous due to being nearly indistinguishable from the English European version.  The only indications were a small letter on the corner of the cartridge sticker ("A" for English, "B" for Swedish) and a sticker on the box reading "Swedish Version".  The latter only appeared on the first printing of cartridges, which resulted in more confusion among buyers.

- A sequel to Shadowgate was planned for the SNES' CD-based addon, which never saw the light of day due to deals that fell through with Philips (resulting in the ill-fated CD-I) and Sony (which triggered the creation of the Playstation).  However, a few ideas from the game were carried over to Shadowgate: Trials of the Four Towers for the Nintendo 64.

One of my favorite death scenes


Shadowgate Walkthrough written by me
tsr's review of the Game Boy Color port of Shadowgate
The Shadowgate Lands - A Shadowgate fanpage

Rating: 7/10
One-line Synopsis: Slightly on the short side, but still a great adventure game for the NES.

©2006 Spoony