Are You Afraid Of the Dark?
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...wait, that's Star Wars, my bad. I meant to say, in a distant galaxy on some alien landscape, a war is being played out. Well, it's not really a fair war, I mean there's the oppressive regime of the Shadow Master who has swarms and swarms of nasty creatures at his disposal. Then there's you, with only an outlandish looking tank/sport utility vehicle and a handful of weapons at your disposal. The fate of your planet lies squarely on your shoulders. Fail, and the hordes of Shadow Master will overrun your planet and lay it to waste. No pressure . . . really. If you are ready to step up to the challenge, then load up Shadow Master and let's get it on!!!
The last couple of months have seen a marked improvement in the quality of games from Psygnosis(just look at Colony Wars). Psygnosis continues this trend with their new first person shooter game Shadow Master. A combination of bitchin' graphics and outstanding gameplay make this game a keeper. For all you Doomwads out there, you'll appreciate the subtleties this game offers, including the ability to look up and down which was conspicuously absent from the Doom series.
Psygnosis gets a gold star for the graphics in this game, which were as fabulous as those in Colony Wars. The terrain on the first level is representative of the rest of the game. The background is shrouded in darkness while the central grid on which you move is dimly lit with eerie shadows and dark corners. I also appreciated the fact that it was not a flat playing surface, but an uneven field with inclines and slopes. When you destroy an enemy, it shatters into a lot of pieces and is punctuated with an explosion that truly is a thing of beauty. Destroying a plethora of enemies simultaneously will leave you begging for more. Ah, animated violence at its best!!
Whilst playing, be sure to pay attention to the background noises because it will give you a clue as to what you will be coming up against. The background music is often interrupted with various grunts, growls, and screeching that let you know there are bad guys nearby. It was most helpful of Psygnosis to incorporate this feature into their game. Shadow Mastercomes equipped with Qsound, which when hooked up to the appropriate speakers will enhance the sound effects and split them according to their relative position to you. This setup is reminiscent of the sound system offered in Cart World Series and is on a par with that system. And the hits just keep on coming...
Shadow Master is really easy to pick up, but damn if the game ain't a bitch to master. It took me several tries to get past the first level. It isn't all just kill, kill, kill you know. You have to figure out how to open locked doors and find secret passageways and what not. All these little brainteasers just add to the strength of the game. When approaching an enemy, I found it effective to soften it up with a couple of hits with the standard laser and then move in for the kill with both primary and secondary guns a-blazin.' This strategy is made possible with the targeting sights that lock on to the closest visible enemy and trains your weapons on them. Most times it's just acquire and shoot. So simple, a trained chimp could do it.
There are several things that irk me about the game though. For instance, it would have been nice if my vehicle had the ability to jump. This would save a lot of looking up and missing big nasty spiders and scorpions in front of you. Granted there aren't a lot of flying creatures, but the ones that did exist kept buzzing me, and they were kind of hard to spot. Also, the gems/diamonds you are supposed to be picking up disappear too damn fast. If you try to rush into them, you end up as target practice for the hordes. What to do, what to do?
All in all, Shadow Master is a worthy addition to the canon of first person
shooter games. Stellar graphics and smooth control make this game a winner.
The level of play is challenging but not difficult. Two thumbs up Psygnosis.