Shadow of the Beast 2


Title 		Shadow of the Beast 2
Publisher	Psygnosis/Reflections (1990)
Game Type 	General Action
Players 	1
Compatibility   All (With WHDLoad Patch)
HD Installable  Yes (With Patch)
Submission 	RJP

Review
This game bears all the hallmarks of early Psygnosis. Stunning
fantasy-style graphics?  Yup. Most of disk 1 taken up with a jaw-dropping
animated intro? Yes. A box that looks like a Yes album cover? Check.
Evidence of playtesting? Ahem...

Like its predecessor, Beast 2 is a multidirectional scrolling beat 'em up
affair, but with adventure-like elements that give it a little more depth.
Charged with the task of rescuing your kidnapped sister from the
Beast-Mage Maletoth, you are free to choose your own path through the
fantasy landscape of Karamoon, picking up objects, solving puzzles and
slaughtering the hoards of vicious monsters that stand in the way. Not
everything is hostile; you also meet some friendly creatures whom you can
trade objects with and ask for advice by typing in questions with the
keyboard.

The presentation is outstanding - probably the best I've seen on the
classic Amiga. The scenery is nicely varied: Rocky hills, swamps, an
abandoned abbey, underground caverns and beautiful swirling rivers, all
infested with an imaginative array of spear-throwing pygmies, dragons,
goblins, fiends, bats and sharks. The graphics are wonderfully detailed;
mostly using subdued pastel shades that are brilliantly offset by lovely
sunset copper lists and parallaxed silhouette backgrounds to give an eerie
twilight effect. A moody panpipe and drums soundtrack adds further to the
oppressive atmosphere. A neat touch is the way the music changes to match
the action - a bit like LucasArt's i-Muse system, but done well. The
game-over sequence is particularly fine - incredible sampled electric
guitar, replete with reverb and stereo panning.

So back to the delicate question of playability...

There is none. Although the main character moves smoothly and responds
well to the controls, the difficulty level simply defies belief. The
baddies are so resilient and attack in such overwhelming numbers... there
are so many awkward jumps over water and acid baths that end in instant
death.... there are so many traps that can't be avoided even when you know
where they are... that the average game is over in about 90 seconds. It's
no exaggeration to say that without the cheat mode you probably won't get
further than about 15 screens from the starting point. The only way to
derive any fun from this game is to play it with the infinite lives cheat
on and treat it purely as an adventure/puzzle game.

And what of those vaunted puzzles?  Mostly a case of finding keys to open
doors, pushing levers to disable traps and giving the right object to the
right character at the right time. There are some quite clever ideas,
such as a bit where you have to break up a big rock with a lever-operated
crane and use the resulting fragments in a catapult; and a section where
you have to lure a large enemy over a flimsy wooden bridge that collapses
under his weight. A lot of the solutions are really obscure and don't
reveal themselves without a good deal of experimentation, so it's
unfortunate that you're rarely given a second chance if you press the
wrong lever. Furthermore, it's easy to find yourself trapped in a
particular section because you didn't collect all the necessary objects
beforehand. Suffice to say that that the game is tricky to complete even
with a walkthrough solution and cheat mode!

As a game Beast 2 is an utter disaster. As an demonstration of what can
be squeezed out of the humble 512K A500 it's a triumph - so much so that I
had quite a lot of fun just messing about with it and admiring the
graphics and sound. Then again, I got the game free with my first Amiga
(Screen Gems bundle), having graduated from a text-only 1979 CP/M machine,
so I was easily impressed. For me, Beast 2 inspires pangs of nostalgia
for a golden age; others will probably be less forgiving.







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