We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Spotlight on Greenlight: Shadowgate

Shadowgate Zojoi

Welcome once again to PCGamesN’s Spotlight on Greenlight, our regular Saturday feature where we look at the best and the most interesting Greenlight games that are hoping to make their way onto Steam. We’ve already looked at dozens of other titles in weeks past, so do take a look at our back catalogue.

It’s been a year since Zojoi took to Kickstarter to fund a redrawn, repuzzled, and rescored edition of the point and click classic, Shadowgate. Finding fame on the Mac back in 1987, Shadowgate had you explore  the dark corridors of the living castle from which the game takes its name. You were on a mission to slay the Warlock Lord and restore order to the land of Kal Zathynn.

25 years ago Shadowgate was a tough puzzler that charmed players with its excellent score and dark humour; today, everything Zojoi has released of the new version looks to better the original.

Just look at what quarter of a century can do for a game:

To compare, here’s what Shadowgate looked like in 1989 when it was ported to the NES:

I don’t want to focus too much on Shadowgate’s new clothes; there’s a lot more going on than new artwork and audio but, similarly, brushing over the excellent work by artists Chris Cold and Wang Ling and composer Rich Douglas would belittle an impressive achievement. The artists have managed to paint versions of the old rooms, which players know so well, that are both recognisable and almost wholly new. The key features of the rooms remain but they’re now drawn with detail that wasn’t possible in the old versions of the game, detail that was only present in the tone of the text descriptions. This is more than a fidelity thing, it’s exactly what Zojoi have shot for, it’s a reimagining of the original.

That same work can be found in the game’s score. Douglas has taken the memorable 8-bit score and built upon it using the tone of the original but making it immensely more rich. You can compare the two at the beginning of Zojoi’s pitch video:

Along with the visual and aural redress – which extends to voiceovers, gruesome sound effects, and plush particle effects – there are cutscenes to add to the original game’s sparse story.

However, the team are doing more than sprucing up the game’s appearance. The elements that most excite me are where the team have had to redesign Shadowgate to turn it into a game that is modern despite its aged source material. The UI, for instance, is completely new. I loved the original Shadowgate but that was despite of the game’s interface, not because of it. You were presented with a screen of buttons and menus that you had to navigate with arrow keys, not a mouse. In fact, the game window itself was tiny in comparison to the UI. You had a small picture of the room that was surrounded by blocks of buttons. The new version of the game has ripped out everything of the old UI. It’s been replaced with a context sensitive system that looks wonderfully simple. More importantly it lets the new artwork fill the screen.

The team have also gone through each of the game’s puzzles and redesigned them so the game can be played through on different difficulty settings. “These scripts range from simpler, more forgiving puzzles and game play to harder, more involved adventuring,” writes Shadowgate’s co-creator Karl Roelofs. “This allows for an easier entry for first-time players while also including expanded versions of game play with more intricate puzzles for those who like their game play more challenging. Combined with changes to torch and overall quest times, this will offer three different play experiences.”

The Kickstarter campaign raised enough to fund the first stretch goal, $130,000 saw the team build an extension to the Castle Shadowgate. The Towers are full of new puzzles and reveal more about the lore of the mysterious world you’re exploring. Despite falling $3,000 short of the next stretch goal, that would have seen a further section added to the castle, the Catacombs, Zojoi are adding about half of that content, too. So this will be the largest version of Shadowgate, as well as the prettiest.

Shadowgate should have a place on Steam. The original game was a grim point’n’click adventure which saw every wrong decision met with a brutal death and the reimagining takes all that charm and challenge and puts it in a modern package.

Better still, if Shadowgate sells well then the team are committed to expanding the adventures in that universe. So, please, give Shadowgate the thumbs up on Greenlight.