Death to Torloc!!!
Generations ago, the Argent Kings met in Alkatesh to designate Mobus as their Archmage. He was entrusted with the sum of their earthly power a powerful amulet called the Hand. On the fourth night of the celebration that followed, a wave of evil forces swept through the unguarded gates. Torlok, the evil brother of Mobus, and second most powerful mage in the Five Kingdoms, commanded these armies. Through jealousy of Mobus and greed for dark power, Torlok charged to take 'the Hand'. Mobus had the presence of mind to magically 'break' the mystical amulet into five powerful relics and sent them to the far corners of the Five Kingdoms.
A single girl of the race of Argent Kings had been away from Alkatesh at the time of the great battle and was the only survivor. She eventually married and had a son, Lathan. Magic ran strong in his blood and he became an apprentice to Daelon, rumored to be the last of the Great Wizards. Lathan's destiny, as last of the Argent Kings, is to recover the five pieces of the Hand. So far he has rescued three relics- the Orb of Mobus, the Black Mace, and the Hunting Horn. During his adventures, he befriended a powerful ally, Princess Grace Delight (We've assigned you to watch a beautiful enemy agent with an unlikely name, Mr. Bond). Lathan helped her to gain back her throne from one of Torlok's henchmen. Now he must find the remaining two relics, the Dagger of Arne and the Crown of Malric, to complete the Hand and save his Kingdom. As Lathan, you must venture forth into the land of shadows and the home of Torloc, Shadoan.
After 20 years of creative thinking, 300 animators and nine months of hard work, the dream of Rich Dyer (president of Virtual Image Productions), has come true. Shadoan features more than 70,000 hand-painted animation cells, 30 original music tracks, over 60 medieval locations, and 70 minutes of high-resolution full-motion animation and dialogue. Even on the minimum requirements the animation runs so smoothly it's amazing. VIP did good work on this one and deserve a ton of credit! You may remember VIP from their award winning classic: Dragon's Lair (Odd trivia: One of only two games displayed at the Smithsonian Institute). They were also the first company to create a holographic coin-operated game, Time Traveler
The characters were so lively that Shadoan took me back to my earlier days of Saturday morning cartoon greats like the animated Dungeons and Dragons series in the 80's. The soundtrack for this animated-adventure is top notch as well. All 30 tracks were arranged by musicians who worked on Disney's Beauty And The Beast and Pocahontas. They're perfect for the storyline and add a rich touch to the already fantastic animation.
The game controls are relatively simple. The game screen is a large window with two dragons on the sides, three books on the bottom left of the screen, a map scroll, an hourglass, Life-roses, a Scrying Glass, the Dragon Eye Ruby, the Stormlight Sapphire, and a pouch. The dragons do not effect the gameplay, they just look pretty. The books on the side are for reference during gameplay. The first book contains the history of the land. The second book is Lathan's journal where you may take notes for future puzzle solving. The third book is the difficult to pronounce Shadoanomicon. It contains the closing credits for the game with great drawings that morph into the game's creators. The map scroll allows access to the area map. Or you can right click the mouse and the map will also appear. On the map screen, you can move the mouse pointer around and see any other available locations to move to. Just by clicking on the location, the map changes back to the game screen and you will see an animation of Lathan entering the area. The hourglass (Sands of Time) is used when Lathan is faced with a time-based decision. When the sands run out, one of your Life-roses withers a little or disappears depending on how crucial the mistake was. The Scrying Glass allows Lathan to see into his pouch showing the possible items needed to solve a puzzle or save his butt. The Dragon Eye Ruby will allow you to skip forward to the end of an animation or to replay the last. The Stormlight Sapphire is used to access the options menu.
When actually playing the game, fans of Dragon's Lair may be disappointed. Unlike Dragon's Lair, you do not move the character forward, backward, side to side, or press an attack button. Shadoan is much more of an adventure game and much less of an action game. When Lathan needs to make an extremely quick decision, the player must slide the mouse pointer and click the item needed. Make the wrong choice and your a gonner. Some of these decisions are FAST and moving the mouse to the item can become a burden rather than a pleasure. That is, if you actually have the item you need. Players will wind up wandering around on the map from area to area to get one item. Then you may have to get another item in order to find the main item you were looking for. During all this seeking, I found myself clicking past all those once-fantastic animations and finding myself more and more annoyed with each replay.
However, those are my only two problems with the game. Shadoan is an awesome idea for a game: mixing animation with adventure gaming. I'd suggest being patient for the first few games to get a feel for the action. When you learn to save before possible danger strikes, it's not as much of a nuisance. Knowing what the items in your pouch do will also be helpful. That way your quick decisions won't be random ones. The puzzles range from easy to hard with the option of playing on the Apprentice or Wizard levels. However, it's still the same "save the homeland" from evil story with few alterations. So if you think you've seen it all in adventure gaming, think again... Shadoan promises to challenge your dexterity as well as your wits.