Shadow Of The Beast

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PS4

De­vel­oper Heavy Spec­turm Pub­lisher SIE For­mat PS4 Re­lease Out now

The orig­i­nal Shadow Of The Beast was, as with so many Amiga games of the era, a tri­umph of style over sub­stance. The game may not have lived up to Roger Dean’s evoca­tive box art­work, but it set an aes­thetic high-wa­ter mark that el­e­vated its ob­tuse, frus­trat­ing game­play. In its re­make, Heavy Spec­trum swings the nee­dle a lit­tle in the other di­rec­tion, but fails to serve up enough ideas to off­set its – by mod­ern stan­dards, at least – un­der­whelm­ing vi­su­als.

That’s not to say it doesn’t look good at times. In­deed, some of the char­ac­ter de­signs are won­der­ful, the an­i­ma­tion is lux­u­ri­ous through­out, and the later stages, when it feels like Heavy Spec­trum is get­ting into the swing of things, of­fer up some spec­tac­u­lar sights. But it never quite achieves the con­tem­po­rary pol­ish of its fore­bear, and of­ten feels a lit­tle am­a­teur­ish.

Things im­prove when the de­vel­oper strays far­ther from the orig­i­nal game’s an­cient tem­plate. The stu­dio has in­tro­duced a deep and en­joy­ably nu­anced com­bat sys­tem, which trades on timed counter-at­tacks, dodge-rolling, of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive spe­cial moves, and an all-pow­er­ful QTE su­per at­tack, which pre­vents en­e­mies from coun­ter­ing or block­ing for as long as you match the rudi­men­tary on­screen prompts. En­emy en­coun­ters feel fluid and var­ied, throw­ing a di­verse cast of en­e­mies at you whose weak­nesses and strengths force you to use the full range of your moveset. While the con­trols aren’t al­ways as re­spon­sive as you’d like, the dis­mem­ber­ment-filled brawls are mor­eish high­lights once you’ve ad­justed to the game’s quirks.

Sadly, these lean, fo­cused mo­ments are sur­rounded by too much flab. Some sim­ple en­vi­ron­men­tal puz­zles later on pro­vide a lit­tle respite, but you’ll spend a lot of time run­ning through empty space and en­dur­ing rick­ety, old-fash­ioned plat­form­ing and some drawn-out ex­plo­ration that high­lights pro­tag­o­nist Aar­bron’s dull-feel­ing lo­co­mo­tion. None of this is helped by poor sign­post­ing and reg­u­larly mis­judged check­point­ing. The mul­ti­player com­po­nents are mis­judged, too, crow­bar­ring in leader­boards and the abil­ity to chal­lenge other play­ers’ but­ton-mash­ing abil­i­ties in an un­sat­is­fy­ing minigame in the Shadow Realm.

But de­spite nu­mer­ous mis­steps, it’s clear that this is a labour of love for its cre­ators, whose fond­ness for the orig­i­nal is well known. The at­ten­tion to de­tail, overt rev­er­ence and earnest fan ser­vice (see ‘Heavy breed­ing’) en­sure that its big-hearted na­ture isn’t drowned out. The re­make’s im­per­fec­tions, while dis­ap­point­ing, re­flect the clunky na­ture of its source ma­te­rial in a way that’s likely to see them just as eas­ily for­given by fel­low fans of the 1989 Psyg­no­sis re­lease.

Dur­ing most com­bat you’ll be hemmed in by two gi­ant force­fields while en­e­mies ap­proach from both di­rec­tions. Not get­ting hit will raise your combo mul­ti­plier, and you’ll be ranked with a medal af­ter each fight

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