Have you ever sat back and thought “You know; I would love a remake of Shadow of the Beast on the PlayStation 4” Nope? Neither has anyone else. Regardless of the titles complete obscurity it appears that the small developer Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs decided to re imagine the 1989 Commodore Amiga title and bring it back to life with the next gen power of the PS4. What’s delivered is a loyal title consisting of a short lived story mode filled with enjoyable timing based side scrolling hack and slash combat that’s let down by uninspired and unresponsive platforming.
Shadow of the Beast has us follow Aarbron, a former human corrupted by evil magic’s that have turned him into a monstrous warrior servant. Aarbron’s bloody journey takes us through visually unique levels that certainly vary from the dark colour palette one would expect for a game with such a grim title. Rich green apple orchards, underground caverns, alien like marshes and desolate ruin filled deserts all feel separate and distinct and are a pleasure to carve your way through and genuinely establish a truly intriguing setting for the story. Unfortunately, Shadow of the Beats story only runs for a little under 3 hours on the normal difficulty. Of course there is limited replay value with each level, trying to beat your best time and score and fully exploring all areas hidden paths to find unlockables is encouraged to level Aarbrons or unlock lore based entries, but this is entirely dependent if you want to replay the same areas over and over. Shadow of the Beast also may be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, but it certainly doesn’t seem to use the consoles full power or push any technical boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, the games areas and over all visual design are some of its strongest points, but I can’t help but feel the game looks like a more recent PS3 title than a PS4 exclusive.
Carving, slashing, hacking and combat in general is Shadow of the Beasts biggest positive. Aarbron is very powerful, so with good timing and a quick hit of the square button our horned hero can dispatch and dismember most foes in a single strike. Simply striking square is the base of Shadow of the Beasts combat but it’s gratifying in its simplicity. I loved watching Aarbron expertly kill his enemies, fluidly animating from one foe to the next with a singular hit of a button. On top of this Aarbron also must counter strike and block in order to survive prolonged engages with waves of enemies, imagine a side scrolling Batman game, except with a lot more blood. This is where my only real grievance with the games combat arises. Aarbrons special moves slow down combat and the camera zooms in to show a pre-determined animation. This is felt the most when Aarbron’s ‘Rage Chain’ is activated, which then turns the combat into a quick time event. These specials are useful and are limited by the protagonist’s rage bar, but still feel jarring and sluggish when juxtaposed with its quicker simpler base combat.
Boss fights in Shadow of the Beast are also laughably simple and monotonous. The first boss encounter only requires you to stand still and block until he or it charges, then hit square to strike when the boss has foolishly incapacitated himself. Rinse repeat this 5 or 6 times and the underwhelming fight is over. Shadow of the Beasts awkward sluggishness and simplicity can be found in its platforming and puzzle solving as well. The games movement based challenges are ones you will have seen before. Open up gate and race annoying timer before it closes, jump over moving spikes onto rising platforms and pillars. You get the picture. What makes these even worse however is the poor unresponsive platforming and movement in the game. Aarbron repeatedly refused to stick to ledges and walls as I traversed the levels, often frustratingly turning the simplest of jumps into a total annoyance. This frustration ultimately leads to me not wanting to explore separate paths in each level as wanted to avoid as man jumps as possible, meaning I often missed out on crucial story pieces and upgrades or ‘talismans’ for Aarbron.
Shadow of the Beast is an ambitious and faithful product by Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs that uses simplistic but effective combat as well as unique setting and impressive score in attempt to remaster and re-invoke nostalgia for a 1989 classic, only to be hamstrung by poor sluggish platforming and movement. It certainly has its perks and is far from awful, and is worth a look if you happen to be one of the few hard core Shadow of the Beasts fans or a side scrolling fanatic looking for something reminiscent of the Commodore Amiga. If this isn’t the case, then Shadow of the Beast may leave much to be desired for a remake of a ‘cult classic’.
Developer: Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.