A Fortnight of Fright: Shadowgate

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Retro
Tags: , , , , ,

As Halloween night draws near, Chad has taken it upon himself to dig into the vaults to bring you some of his favorite horror-themed video games. Can you handle the madness? Read on, if you dare!

Another Way to Die

Shadowgate initially debuted on the Apple Macintosh. Although it was about as successful as a game developed specifically for the Mac could be in the late 1980s, most people, myself included, are more familiar with the NES port. An early point-and-click adventure, Shadowgate put you in the shoes of a nameless adventurer who had to set off to the eponymous Castle Shadowgate to hunt down a magic staff, and subsequently prevent the Warlock Lord from summoning an ancient evil. Despite the fact that playing a point-and-click adventure on the NES is cumbersome at best, Shadowgate manages to be an incredibly compelling game, and an incredibly frustrating one as well.

And that’s because you’re going to die. You’re going to die a lot.

Shadowgate is perhaps most memorable for the myriad ways you can meet your end, complete with a text description of your grisly end and Death’s grim, grinning visage. The designers thought up countless ways to kill you. Heck, it’s possible to commit suicide if you’re so inclined in Shadowgate. Of course, with the bottomless pits in every other NES game, it’s not like suicide isn’t an option in those, too. It’s highly recommended that you don’t enter the castle until you’ve first notified your next of kin and made out your will, because Shadowgate makes some of the early King’s Quest games seem forgiving by comparison. This game is sadistic! The only way to make it through the game is through intense trial and error. But something keeps spurring you on to try to look Death in the face and spit in his empty eye socket again.

Shadowgate Death Screen
Get used to this scene.

And honestly, I think one of the most compelling factors (in the NES version, at least) was the game’s music. It’s extraordinarily atmospheric, giving you the feel you’re entering a place you’re not welcome, but never abandoning a feel of adventure and mystery. And yes, even your funeral dirge is¬†unnecessarily awesome. So I implore you, grab your limited amount of torches and crappy armor and raid Shadowgate. You’re going to die, so you might as well do it in style!

View Previous Fortnight of Fright: Sweet Home 

View Next Fortnight of Fright: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

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