Welcome to part three of my Seven Gaming Heroes series. This week I’m going to be looking at the most beautiful blood in gaming that is the remake of Shadow of the Beast. A re-imagining of the 1989 game of the same name released on the Commodore Amiga, the 2016 remake was developed by Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs as an exclusive title for the Playstation 4.
First impressions of Shadow of the Beast will immediately notice the incredible graphical quality of both the environmental scenery and the character design. Every inch of Shadow of the Beast has clearly been meticulously designed so that everything from the deepest darkest pit to the highest distant treetop looks truly gorgeous whenever you stop to look at them. You can’t help but feel a sense of wonder when traversing the various levels the game takes place across, and the game allows you to fully explore the setting of each level.
You play as Aarbron, the titular Beast, who frees himself from his Master’s control at the beginning of the game and sets out into the world seeking revenge against the force that had been controlling him. Battling against a generous assortment of interesting and grotesque monsters, Aarbron acquires different abilities across the early stages of the game to help him attempt to quench his blood thirst. Aarbron is equipped with two large and cruel looking spikes on each of his wrists, so his mere act of punching a target will also see them gifted with two huge puncture wounds wherever he strikes them.
The gameplay is a hack and slash blood soaked side scroller packed with challenges and a score leaderboard at the end of each level so you can compare your performance with other players from around the world. The easy to learn but hard to master style of the combat is great at sucking players in to try again and again to beat their previous high score and gradually climb the global rankings. Different combos and weapons keep combat fresh and varied across the two to three hour length, and arguably aside from one late game level that is still perfectly enjoyable, doesn’t feel like it is ever repeating itself or trying to superficially pad its runtime.
The music and sound design are both very good though you will hardly notice the former over the squelching sounds of eviscerating every living thing you come across. At the time of writing, I can only recall the music for the main menu despite having recently played the first couple of levels. I can however remember the sound of dismembering those humanoid flies all too well, and I love it.
I admit the story isn’t great but similarly to Mad Max from a couple of weeks ago, nobody is really here for an engaging story. Like Mad Max there is a vague background narrative playing out while you’re carving up legions of enemies, and by the time the credits roll I never felt like I’d really understood what was going on. This does very little to damage my enjoyment of the game, a fact that’s proven when you consider I have played through it in its entirety around ten times. I’ve said before that Shadow of the Beast has the most beautiful blood you will ever see in a video game, which is fortunate as Aarbron is more than happy to soak the entire landscape in it.
The final level is cinematic and spectacular, though I have heard some criticise it for the way it abruptly changes play style as the endgame boss fight is fought in a manner not seen in the game until that point. I’m not going to go into detail here as I want it to be a surprise for anyone who plays the game for the first time after reading this, but I will say that it’s the equivalent of getting to the final boss in a story driven game like Red Dead Redemption 2 and being told you can only fight them in TIE fighters.
Thank you for reading why Shadow of the Beast is one of my Gaming Heroes. As mentioned earlier, it is only available for Playstation 4 but is a common appearance in the various Playstation Network sales and so can usually be purchased for less than £5. I hope you will give this game a chance if you haven’t already, and please let me know in the comments or on Twitter @MaliceVER what your experience of it was like if you have. I’ll be back next week with part four to talk about one of my favourite indie endless runner games, Race the Sun, and so I will speak to you then.