Voodoo and Irish snakes in top hats? That’ll be Shadow Man then.
So I’ve been sat in my gaming room this evening, (yes I’m nearly 40 and have a gaming room), playing Shadow Man on my very temperamental Dreamcast and something struck me. From a technical standpoint it hasn’t aged at all well, in fact the DC version is just a straight port of the N64 original albeit with the the ‘jaggies’ smoothed out.
It’s chunky looking with flat textures, the animation just manages scrape in at average and the controls are horribly clunkly – yet why can’t I stop playing it?
Okay the musical score is quality, no question there, and it’s certainly a challenge, (and not purely because of it’s clunky control system which you do get used to – eventually), but it’s not just that.
There’s something about Shadow Man that has had me returning to it all evening inbetween doing the ‘normal stuff’ that takes up the brunt of my evenings at home.
The story, while not award winning, is quite compelling I guess in a Dark Horse Comics kind of way.
Shadow Man revolves around a man by the name of Michael LeRoi, a former English literature student who came unstuck at the hands of a voodoo gang he ripped off for sum of $20,000. A dying voodoo priestess and rival gang member, Mama Nettie, decides to use her powers to forcibly implant the Mask of Shadows, a powerful voodoo artifact, into Mike’s chest. In doing so Mike becomes the Shadow Man, a voodoo warrior.
One night in 1999, Mama Nettie has a prophetic dream in which five serial killers known as ‘the Five’, under the direction of an immensely powerful and evil being known as ‘Legion’, are attempting to bring about the Apocalypse by transporting an immortal army of hideous monsters to Earth through an enormous construction on Deadside simply called ‘Asylum’.
Nettie tells Shadow Man of this and instructs him to immediately travel to Deadside using his strong emotional attachment to his dead brother’s teddy bear as a conduit and meet up with Jaunty, an Irish speaking, skull-headed snake who acts as Nettie’s eyes and ears in Deadside.
I guess for all it’s faults it’s just remains an enjoyable game, one that gives players plenty to do while offering a genuine challenge, the kind that would make most of today’s gamers pass out in frustration. There’s no patronizing help messages or constant reminders to press ‘Y’ to jump up onto a ledge; just like games used to be, it asks you to discover the foreboding world of ‘Deadside’ for yourself.
And as for the Shadow Man himself? Well, he’s quite a cool dude. Pretty funny too.