Shadow of the Beast: PS4 Review
I was not aware of the original Shadow of the Beast, a Commodore Amiga smash hit that hit way back in 1989.
So consequently, that the hack and side-scrolling slash game that's been remastered for the next gen console feels in turns like a nostalgia throw back and a next gen remaster simultaneously is perhaps no mean feat.
For the uninitiated, the game centres around Aarbron, a servant corrupted by magic and turned into a beast with an unsatiated bloodlust. The 2D platformer sees you taking the helms of the initially chained Aarbron who's out to get revenge when he realises what he's done...
Heavy Spectrum has clearly remained faithful to the original and has fashioned something that looks like Street Fighter met Abe's Odyssee and turned the whole thing into a bloody hack and slash spectacle.
The 2D platformer side-scroller ethos works well for the game, that sees you chaining together combos and essentially beating down hordes of bad guys heading your way. When faced with a fight, you have no choice but to go into combat as portals spring up either side, preventing your escape.
And as you fight, you collect blood from your enemies in a bar (as well as blood-splatters on your screen, this is not a game that shies away from the gore) but you can also unleash rage chains with the use of L1 and R1 when the blood bar is full. Doing so boosts your fight combo and ultimately the points you're given.
Stunning, throwing enemies and blocking attacks, as well as jumping on them to perform a QTE to literally claw back health make up a majority of the game and while it's wonderfully rendered and executed, it does get a tad repetitive. But it's chaining combos and gaining points which help you upgrade, so there's a necessity to all of it and a reason behind the never-ending desire to kill.
As you traipse through landscapes, which are all beautiful to behold and could be easily overlooked, the game becomes something more of a quest rather than just a fight - it's just a shame that you can't duck into the backgrounds themselves simultaneously (as witnessed in Abe's Oddysee, the perspective works very well) to add a little more depth to the events.
If the game relies a little too heavily on combat, its not wanting to deviate from the original seems commendable (and the developers have even thrown in a playable version of the 1983 hit). With no rhyme or reason though, due to overwhelming numbers of foes and a limited space to fight within, occasionally, you can get caught out and injured without warning. It's frustrating given combos are necessary and disrupting them sets you back.
Secrets litter the game in the form of orbs and these add background and context to the story, so unless these are located, some of the subtleties are lost of the narrative, which is a shame.
Ultimately, Shadow of the Beast does what it says on the tin.
The depth is there, if you seek it out, but it leads to the feeling that this really is a game that will depend on your style of playing.
Nicely respectful, and rendered perfectly, this HD brawler feels like it could have reached a little higher and maybe been something which stood out a little more. It's a callback to older times, but thanks to a fresh coat of paint, it just manages to stake its place in the next gen world.