When he morphs into a ninja, you'd better duck...
It has been a while since we have seen a good platform game for the PC, partly because the genre is in decline. The Earthworm Jim series broke some new ground, though no company wanted to follow up. Enter Disney and Cold Shadow.
Cold Shadow is a game that can be enjoyed by both kids and grown ups. With so many hidden secrets throughout the game, it offers great variety. Cold Shadow has all the makings of your standard platform game, though it doesn't offer anything particularly original that would mark this game as revolutionary.
The background of the story begins with the loss of the great mojo idol. The hero of the game is Maui Mallard, who has the ability to morph into a skillful ninja (by attaining a certain amount of yin and yang coins). Maui's mission is to retrieve the idol and return it to the princess of the Muddrakes, Herneae. Along the way, Maui will face a wide variety of enemies including Muddrakes, Zombies and Amazon Warriors. Aside from the enemies, Maui must pass through 23 perilous levels stuffed to the hilt with traps and secrets.
One of the first things to jump out is the excellent artwork characteristic of Disney. All of the colors are sharp, and the animation is fairly smooth as long as you play it on a small window. If you decide to play it on a full screen, you will experience some frame loss which might effect some of the gameplay.
Perhaps the strongest quality of this game is the variety. Each level is filled with different enemies, forcing you to constantly be on your toes and adopt new methods of play. For example, stage one only allows you to play as Maui mallard with his gun.In the next level, your gun is completely stripped of its power, and your only option is to play as the ninja. While stage one is mainly a jump and shoot stage, you must employ different techniques in stage two like the "ninja climb" and the teleport. Furthermore, there are so many hidden passages and items that it is often hard to play the exact same game twice. Whether or not the stage is easy depends on if you find those many hidden items. This is the hardest part of the game, but that's one of the things that make this game exciting. There are certain points (usually in the more difficult areas) where you can obtain an extra life and everytime you die, it will still be there to obtain again. This partially compensates for the game's difficulty.
Most of the effects are top notch. The music in particular is excellent, setting the tone for each stage. The game also employs a wide variety of different sound effects, all of which can compete with just about any other game. The speed and the pace of Cold Shadow is fast, but there isn't a time limit to rush the player. The only time constraint is how long you can stay in ninja form because there's a time limit for the yin and yang coins.
There's also comic relief during the course of the game. For example, when Maui stands idle for a few seconds, he will pull out his map and then a chicken ( I have NO idea what this means - Ed.). Another one occurs when you pause the game. At this point, Maui's head icon will be snoozing.
Still, there are a few catches to this game. For one thing, you can only continue if you find the continue item or if you have the password. This is especially heartbreaking when you haven't found all the secrets of a particular stage (which usually means that you'll have no chance against the boss). One of the more distracting aspects of the game occurs when the music reloads. When this happens, all action in the game stops. You can be in the middle of jumping over a spike-filled pit, and suddenly you've eaten a load of damage from falling. Aside from the lack of continues, once you lose life, you lose all the items obtained during the stage (coins, ammo, etc.).
Overall, Cold Shadow is a very good game with excellent artwork, animation, and variety. Children will enjoy the graphics and the animation, while adults will appreciate the pace, artwork, and the music of each stage. Although there isn't anything especially novel about this game, Cold Shadow is a very fun game in which one can easily be absorbed.