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Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers

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Reviewed by Muskrat300@aol.com

Game description

You walk around in brooding 3D environments in first person, interacting with, taking, and using various objects and talking to people every now and then. Primarily a puzzle game, you use your wits to advance. It's all about figuring out which items to use where. It's very similar to the original Shadowgate.

Story summary

You play the role of halfling Del Cottonwood. Your caravan is attacked and you are the sole survivor. Placed in the dungeon of the infamous castle Shadowgate, you must escape. Shortly after gaining you freedom, however, you are informed by the wizard Lakmir the Timeless that there is a plot to revive the Warlock Lord, an evil, evil man held in captivity by the spells of Lakmir and the Circle of Twelve. Scary, non? So of course you are then morally obligated to go off and stop that. Sound confusing? It's not, trust me.

Graphics 9 out of 10

What we have here is some of the most carefully rendered 3D environments ever produced for the Nintendo 64. The people down at Kemco paid very careful attention to detail, and just about everything looks perfect. Some areas, such as the chapel with the stained-glass ceiling, look real enough to touch. The scrolling is excellent, and there is hardly ever any pixillation. Little touches add very nicely to the dark mood inside the castle. In one room, you walk in and a cat jumps off the chandelier. It sways back and forth for a while, coming eventually to a stop. A large part of the game is finding and using objects. This might seem hard, given the huge 3D environments, but it is pretty easy to tell which items you can interact with and which are just part of the scenery. The only problem with the graphics are the people. They are motionless unless you talk to them, and then they repeat the same gesture over and over while you talk. Animation is very limited, but that's not really a factor in this type of game. The only things you ever see move are either random things in the background, people, or doors being opened. Overall, very impressive.

Sound 8 out of 10

The background music really adds a nice touch when you're walking around, exploring or trying to solve puzzles. It is very good for the most part, and you can adjust the volume if you really like it or really hate it. The sound effects are extensive but fairly limited. Every single door in the entire game opens with a creak, and shuts with a bang. There are a few noises incorporated into the background, like wind howling outside or a frog jumping into the water with a splash. In some areas, you hear your footsteps echoing as you walk. Stereo sound is used very well. If you don't have a stereo TV, you are really missing out. You hear each door open in front of you and close behind you. In one part, there's a sign swinging back and forth, creaking periodically. I couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from, but I was able to locate it in the game by turning around and listening to where it was coming from. Talk about realism!

Game design 9 out of 10

The castle Shadowgate gives off a feeling of loneliness and despair. The place really sets a mood. Little details are what make the difference. Rats scurrying down halls and signs creaking lazily make it more realistic. The areas are huge, but not as big as Turok 2. Despite that, it's easy to find your way around the castle. In a huge design improvement over the original Shadowgate for NES and now Game Boy Color, you don't die every five seconds. Not every little mistake ends in your death. A good story line adds to the game.

Play control 7 out of 10

The controls are exactly the same as Turok: move with C-buttons, look with control stick. You can also push Z to crouch, which plays an integral part in some puzzles. It's very easy to move around, and you hardly ever get "stuck" on objects. It's very important to look all over the rooms, because the programmers love to hide secrets on ceilings and floors. It's very easy. To use objects, just hit B. Unlike the original Shadowgate, there is only one way to interact with your surroundings, A. Much easier. There are some problems, though. The sidestep doesn't work very well, and can't be used at the same time as you are walking forward. Lame! Also, some items can't be picked up from a certain side or angle, which can be frustrating. Overall it's pretty workable.

Satisfaction 7 out of 10

This game is very cool. Everything looks beautiful, and it's fun to solve the puzzles if you like that sort of thing. The problems with control aren't a big deal. There are two main problems with the game overall. 1) Not long enough for my tastes. I spent about 9 hours playing the game and beat it. It's not an epic RPG like Final Fantasy 3, but more of a pleasant diversion. 2) The puzzles can sometimes be frustrating. It can be easy to miss a small item like a key in the huge areas, and very frustrating to have to go back and meticulously search for it.

Replay Value 4 out of 10

Once you've solved all the puzzles, there's not much left to do. After beating it once, you're really about finished. All the fun is in exploration and solving puzzles. After the first time, you know everything. I could see someone really fanatical going through this game 2 or 3 times, but not me.

Overall 7 out of 10

Rent this game first. If you're like me and go on gaming marathons, this will only take you a few days to beat. It's a good game, with awesome graphics and good sound, but it doesn't have enough hours of play-time in it to merit a purchase. Rent it, and since you can save your progress on a memory pack, you can return it and play again later.

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