Active adventuring

Shadowgate logo

Dave Ericsson, with his mighty sword in one hand and Amiga mouse in the other, follows the golden rule: Observe and act.

ARE you handy with a mouse but a slow and painful typist? If so, then Mirrorsoft has all sorts of adventures for you. One set in the classic mould of dungeons and dragons is Shadowgate.

You may have to type in a few words when speaking to something or when naming a saved game, but for the rest it is all mouse controlled, dragging and clicking on a wide range of well drawn icons that enable you to do almost anything.

You start with very little useful information about the task ahead. All you know is that you are the last of a long line of ancient kings, and a prophecy foretells that the faste of the world is in your hands.

You must overcome the dreaded Warlock Lord and stop him from fulfilling his plan to destroy the world with his dark magic. The good wizard Lakmir is not able to give you any assistance other than transport you to the doors of Shadowgate.

Once a shining fortress, standing for all that was good and pure in the realm. Shadowgate has fallen under the Warlock's power. Here he will attempt his evil deeds. This is humanity's last chance: are you strong enough in mind and body to challenge his might?

Although distributed by Mirrorsoft, Shadowgate is a Mindscape production, programmed by ICOM Simulations. Originally written for the Apple, its implementation on the Amiga realises the full potential of the system.

The screen display consists of a number of windows, the largest being a representation of your present location. Alongside is an inventory window displaying all you are carrying as graphic icons. A smaller window to the right shows any visible exits.

A scrolling text display lies across the bottom of the screen and at the top is a box with the eight main commands: Examine, open, close, speak, operate, go, hit and consume. A pull-down menu enables you to select save/load game position, together with quit or the option to begin the game again.

The main location pictures are often quite detailed, and moving the mouse pointer across them and clicking on interesting areas will reveal all sorts of things. Any items found may be picked up by clicking on the object and dragging it into the inventory window. To drop them simply drag them back into the main picture.

Clicking on one of the command words and then on an object in either the location or inventory windows will cause that command to be actioned on the item chosen. Most of the commands are obvious but "operate" has many uses. Select a key in the inventory, then operate, then a door, and the door will be unlocked.

Take care in which order you operate objects. The right way and you may well have your sword at the ready, the wrong way and you have just committed suicide with it. Use the save game option regularly as it is easy to get killed. Torches burn away with monotonous regularity and it is easy to use them up as you explore all the possibilities of a location. A saved game will help here too.

Apart from getting past the first two locations - look in the skull - your initial problem is to get enough light to see by. There are plenty of torches and you must light a new one before the old one has gone out, as you do not have any matches. Once over these basics, examine everything you can think of, including the torches.

The graphics are very good and some of the animated scenes use plenty of the Amiga's potential. The sound effects are also well up to present standards. The game itself is one of finding and using the right object at the right time. There are usually some clues around but they are often more obvious after the event than before. Plenty of experimentation is called for; learn from your sometimes painful mistakes.

Although not cheap, Shadowgate will provide days of puzzlement. The operating system works well and at least you will not have to search for the right command words - just try everything. But above all keep your eyes open for anything that is the slightest bit unusual.

Shadowgate logo


The latest in the Mindscape's Amigaventures, follows on from the excellent Déjà Vu and the pretty good Uninvited. In Shadowgate you find yourself taking on the role of the final generation of the 'Line of Kings', and your quest is to find and dispose of the Warlock Lord who, surprise, surprise, is the cunningly evil villain in this game.

As you would expect, there is a reason for you to want to get rid of Warlock, and it is that he has, in a manner not unlike the baddies in Bat Man, decided to take control of the world by bringing back to life something called the Titan of Behemoth, which the manual assures us is one of the deadliest creatures ever to tramp on this earth.

For anyone who has ever played Déjà Vu or Uninvited, the way of playing this game will immediately feel familiar. Those people more used to blasting things with the mouse, and playing adventures with the keyboard will, however, find the user-interface (that is the way you control your characters actions to you and me) both novel and perfectly suited to the Amiga.

On screen at any one time there are six windows, each one giving you information vital to your quest. At the top left corner of your screen is the graphics window, showing your surroundings. As well as that there is a text window for written description of locations, an inventory window to show what you are carrying, and an exits window to show any non-visible ways of getting out.

To take any actions in the game there is a menu system which allows you to choose one of eight suitable actions to take. They are, in no particular order: Examine, Open, Close, Speak, Operate, Go, Hit and Consume.

The first thing you see when playing Shadowgate is a front door with a skull above it. It leads to a hall with two doors, both of which are firmly locked. As you wait in the hall, the torch you are carrying goes out and you are, to put it in plain English, buggered. To get past this, you must tell the computer to attempt to move the skull. This is done as follows: click the mouse on operate, then on the window called 'thyself' and then on the skull. That will then reveal what you need to get past the first problem. In essence what you are doing is telling the computer you want to move the skull.

As with its predecessors, Déjà Vu or Uninvited, Shadowgate was originally programmed for the Macintosh, but Mindscape have perfected porting it to the Amiga, and the changes it has made to the graphics and in particular sound, mean the game does begin to use the Amiga's facilities.

Each room you enter has a different picture, ranging from basic dungeons to raging demons (the latter being accompanied by an impressive scream). Colour is used well, although the pictures are not really as carefully drawn as they were on the Macintosh version of the game I saw earlier.

What Shadowgate does have that Déjà Vu did not is animation and extensive use of sampled sound. The animation is fairly limited at the beginning of the game, to rats scuttling across the floor and eyes glinting at you menacingly, but later on it becomes a little more widespread.

The sound effects are surprisingly good. Screams, hysterical laughs, and creaking doors are just three of the multitude of impressive and atmospheric sounds that add a great deal to the game.

Overall Shadowgate is a pretty good game. To quote the advertisement currently running in the American press it is "a new way to give thrill-seekers the willies" (oo-er sounds a bit rude!), and although I could not agree with that, it did provide a few hours of harmless fun. Unfortunately, retailing as it does at £29.99 you have to either be very rich or very dedicated to buy it.