SOFTWARE REVIEW: SHADOW OF THE BEAST
by Richard Karsmakers
Some days, nothing goes your way. The weather is that of a sunny
early-autumn day, and although it's a bank holiday your diary
tells you that you swapped it in exchange for an additional day
off around Christmas. The light outside is that very odd shade of
what it normally is, which tells you today is actually not a day
like any other. Your Great Love is far away from you but you know
you can't reach her by phone since she is at some kind of obscure
children's village teaching tiny kids how to take care of their
pets. A few of your colleagues that also work at a day like that
suddenly find ways of doing things that do not happen to include
you. Outside, everybody is happy and celebrating some kind of
Great Unity. You know that the most gorgeous girls in town, the
ones that are miraculously hidden from sight on all other days of
the year no matter how hard you look, walk around on a nearby fun
fair. You know they are, for you saw some of them for a brief
instant as you went to get your post from your mail address
(which only consisted of unsollicited stuff and a traffic
ticket). On top of that, you notice that the ache in your throat,
a first signs of a heavy flu coming up, gets worse by every drop
of de-carbonated lukewarm Cola you swallow. You know you should
go and have a bite to eat since you haven't had anything all day,
but you're not hungry. Then you spill the last glass of Cola, de-
carbonated and lukewarm as it is. You see the fluid disappearing
in the carpet but you feel powerless and too futile to do
anything against it.
In short: Everybody seems to be having not too bad a time.
Everybody, that is, but you.
On a day like this, Wednesday, October 3rd 1990, this story was
The Beast had one of these days, too.
It had started as it had gathered the courage to face the
challenge of stepping out of bed. Some kind of psychological
switch in its head had flicked the wrong way that night, and if
only it knew why, it would have tried to do something about it.
Yet it couldn't for it didn't, and when it looked in the mirror
it saw a rather gloomy version of itself, looking astonishingly
It hadn't quite understood this, for it had gone to bed early
the evening before and by the time it had got up it was way past
eleven in the morning.
It had growled, and had been startled by the way it looked when
At least the weather was OK. It was dark and gloomy like the
Beast itself - the perfect day for the rather dark and gloomy job
that it considered appropriate to do about once every year:
Kidnapping a newborn human child.
Not only was it gloomy and dark, but the ultimate darkness of
the night was also approaching - as were some rather impressive
thunderclouds that foretold heavy weather.
As it closed the door of his dark abode in the back of a
concealed cave in the mountains, it felt positively gloomy - even
though it felt in its throbbing veins that on that very day a
young boy had been born in the nearby valley where mortals roam,
something that would normally have made it feel very glad and
strangely warm inside.
Everything was perfect except for its state of mind, yet there
was nothing in its considerable power that could change that.
The valley started at about a three hours' walk from its cave.
Since it was a Beast, however, it had means of transport at its
disposal that really didn't make it necessary for one to walk any
more, not even when going for a bit of groceries just around the
It jumped on its Harley and headed south, down to Nocilis Valley
where it would satiate its immeasurable and inexplicable chronic
desire to kidnap a human nursling.
The thunderclouds had held their promise, and now and again some
heavy rolling, thunderous sounds...er....rolled through Nocilis
Valley, accompanied by flashes of lightning and gusts of violent
rain the earth had but rarely seen before.
Deep down in the valley, a small solitary house lay. Some smoke
managed to arise from the chimney, climbing as it were against
the severe downpour that shuddered the very tiles on the roof
under which its fire burned.
To the north of the valley, a dark silhouette of a creature
stood poised, crouching on the corner of a ledge's edge. It
waited eagerly, its red eyes gleaming with fire and torment
gazing towards the frenzied souls in the shadows of the valley
A crack of thunder broke the sound of rain.
The creature was unmoved by the commotion of what seemed to be
unnatural pandemoneum of the elements. It stood proudly, inhaling
deeply, each muscle flexing as if in the stance of a great
As if in an immense state of rage, it suddenly spread its wings
and dropped down towards the small, solitary house.
If it had to be done today, then it might as well be done now -
for the sake of suspense and all.
In the house, a woman sat in a rocking chair. Her beautiful
voice sang a soft song, and she looked very happy. Now and again
she would pause her singing, sigh a deep sigh of content, and
then continue with an even softer, more gentle song.
Would she have been named Susanne Vega and would she have lived
in our time, she would have had no problem making a hit record
singing about a dull every-day afternoon in some kind of coffee
But, apart from the fact that she wouldn't know what a coffee
shop was, she wasn't and she wasn't, so she had and therefore
In her arms lay a baby boy. It slept peacefully on the soft
silken skin of her arms, seemingly unaffected by all the violence
of nature that was tormenting the world outside.
A cosy hearth fire threw the disembodied shadow of a gently
rocking figure at the wall.
A batlike shape descended from the ledge's edge, and its goal
was obvious: It aimed to land directly on the roof of the small,
solitary house in the valley.
Shit. Wasn't thunder and lightning enough nowadays? Why did it
have to rain like this? He liked cats and dogs, but not when they
were raining down (no matter what Phil Collins may have sung
The Beast hoped it wouldn't slide off on all those slippery, wet
rooftiles when landing.
The woman still sang softly, yet a slight tremor in her voice
hinted at sudden subconscious unrest deep inside her - as if she
felt that great peril was drawing nigh.
The baby woke up, as if triggered by the hint of a tremor in the
woman's tender voice. A light touch of her fingers on the baby's
forehead, however, made it close its eyes again.
Would this have been a movie, now would have been the moment for
some rather heavy music to fade in. No saxophones but lotsa
violins and associated instruments. Possibly a bit of percussion
at the vital bits.
A sound as if a hundred crows had suddenly crash-landed on the
roof tore the friendly silence in the house to shreds. The woman
instantly stopped singing and looked up, covering the baby which
immediately started to cry.
The roof seemed to bulge to the inside as if some kind of
enormous thing was standing on it.
Part of the roof got torn off by savage hands, creating an
opening through which two fiery red eyes peered in towards the
frightened woman and her child.
The Beast felt really pleased with itself.
"GIVE THE CHILD TO ME, WOMAN," it said.
The woman froze as a beastly hand was stretched in through the
hole in the roof. It was a big, hairy hand; a hand with menacing
claws that glittered in a treacherous way in the light of the
small fire in the hearth.
"GIVE THE CHILD TO ME, WOMAN," the Beast repeated. Nothing had
actually changed in its voice, yet something made it sound almost
infinitely more hideous than before.
The hand extended itself further, deep enough so that the woman
could be be allowed to put her baby in its enormous palm.
"No," she replied.
Her voice was very soft yet, peculiarly, very strong.
The Beast had already felt strangely uncomfortable all day, and
when it had got up from bed that morning it swore that it would
have been the first and last challenge of the day.
Now it stood aghast. Simply abashed. Flummoxed.
"NO?" it simply said. Its voice had lost all of its hideousness
and it was starting to wonder why it had actually set out to
kidnap this baby boy in the first place.
"No," the woman confirmed in her soft yet peculiarly strong
"WELL..." the Beast sighed, "I GUESS I'D BETTER BE OFF THEN. I
THINK I LEFT THE GAS ON, ANYWAY."
The woman nodded appreciatively. The baby stopped crying and now
seemed to look up at the Beast in a rather accusing way, defiant
The hand retreated.
"TODAY IS DEFINITELY NOT MY DAY," the Beast muttered to itself
as it flapped out its wings and flew back to its mysterious, dark
hiding place deep in the mountains to the north.
To tell you all the truth, receiving "Shadow of the Beast" for
the ST was a tad of a letdown - and not only because of the
reduced size of the packaging that resulted in no T-shirt being
included (which was standard on the Amiga, be it at a 10 quid
The only reason it got a true review instead of the usual bit in
the "ST Software News" column was the fact that the game has a
status, an eerie kind of image that it emanates. That inspired me
to some kind of introductory novel (though this was also inspired
considerably by the intro of the Amiga version of "Shadow of the
Beast II", as well as by life itself as you may have gathered).
First, let me tell you what "Beast" on the Amiga was like. For
this, I didn't even have to look at an Amiga version (even though
I did), for the specs are still on the rear side of the ST
packaging: 50 frames per second arcade quality scroll, 350
screens, 132 unique monsters, 13 levels of parallax scrolling,
900 kb of emotive music, 2 Mb of graphics compressed in two
Well, on the ST the game seems to be identical apart from one
extremely important bit: The number of frames per second.
The manual even goes further, and states that up to 128 colours
are on the screen at the same time. Well...er....I must have
So I think it's very reasonable to tell Psygnosis off for
misinforming the ST user! I surely hope they won't get sued over
something like this...
Anyway. In "Beast", you are a grown-up (and somewhat 'beasted')
child that has once been captured by evil powers and that now
seeks revenge on his captors (and masters) after finding out the
truth about his past. Etcetera. From now on, it's a hack'n'slash
game where you have to roam through the different levels in
search for revenge.
The Amiga game itself would not have been so good if it wasn't
for the fantastic graphics, the awesome sound and the extremely
smooth (one vlb/50 Hertz) scrolling. The playability was
repetitive, and although the monsters varied it was basically all
The ST version is a straight port, so gameplay hasn't improved a
bit. The colours have been decreased to what I suspect are 15
colours plus one colour used for a background raster palette
(though I may be wrong here). The leading character now looks
positively dark green (3 or 4 shades tops) instead of 16-colour
grey and red accents. The backgrounds have less colours (which
shows). Although the 13-layer parallax scrolling has been
included, it is very 'blocky'.
The people who converted the game to the ST, those behind the
Electronic Arts game "Projectyle" (who are called Eldritch the
Cat) are surely not the ones to be blamed. I think it is almost
impossible to make the current game any better - but wouldn't it
have been useful to get rid of some of the parallax layers? Two
or three is surely more than enough?
In the ST version, "Shadow of the Beast" lacks what the Amiga
version had. Even if it would have had the demo-aspect of the
original, "Beast" would not have been a good game to play. This
ST version, though craftfully converted, doesn't even have that.
Loading also tends to take ages, and each time you die (which
happens more than you would think) you have to re-insert the
bootdisk from which it will start loading its entire intro with
digi music and the whole shebang. You are very lucky if you don't
lose about two to three minutes waiting (and getting very
irritated) each time you die. Lastability is thus reduced
Concluding, it is evident: If you buy "Beast", you buy an image,
and nothing more. It's nothing more but a souped up hack'n'slash
game with a couple of adventuresque elements that, on its search
for brilliant looks, ran into a killing mob instead of a beauty
Let's hope Psygnosis will not be afraid to cut out things on the
ST conversion of "Shadow of the Beast II". If they don't, then
that will be a bummer, too.
Name: Shadow of the Beast
Value for money: 6
Overall rating: 6.5
Hardware: Colour monitor, joystick, and
double sided disk drive. A voucher
is included in the package that
allows people to get single sided
disks at no extra charge.
Remark: Conversion of a game that lived off
its technical side. The technical
side is lost, so what is left?...
Nonetheless, however, I would like to send sincere thanks to Roy
Barker of Psygnosis, for sending this game as well as others that
were reviewed in the "ST Software News" section.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.