Shadowgate (1987)

The 1989 NES version of Shadowgate is one of my favorite videogames of that era. It’s a point-and-click dungeon crawl, and is perfect in a lot of ways. For the most part, it lacks the skewed logic of many point-and-click games, though its approach to magic can be tricksy in a way I appreciate. The monsters are interesting, but there is no real combat, it’s all just puzzles in a different form, and they must all be solved if you have any chance of defeating the Warlock Lord and stopping the raising of Behemoth. And boy does the game oozes atmosphere. Thanks to the timer of your torches burning out and the genuinely unsettling soundtrack, the game feels like it has real stakes, real danger.

I knew the NES version was a port/rework of an earlier computer game developed initially for Mac, but it wasn’t until last summer I saw the cover for it. I don’t know why I assumed it would have the same somewhat silly looking gargoyle as the NES release. It didn’t. This cover is so much coooooler. Having fiddled with emulations of the original, I do think the NES version is better — though slightly higher res, the Mac version is black and white and lacks the soundtrack, which is a key component of the game’s success.

Couple funny things. Until I bought the computer version (this one is actually for Atari computers), I didn’t realized that Déjà Vu and Uninvited preceded Shadowgate (the NES ports started with Shadowgate, then Uninvited, then finally Déjà Vu). And I only just learned as I prepared to write this that when SSI closed up in 1994, it was acquired by Mindscape, which had published Shadowgate. There’s no meaningful connection between Shadowgate and the Gold Box games beyond that purchase, but it tingled the back of my brain in a funny way.

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