SOFTWARE REVIEW: SHADOW OF THE BEAST II BY PSYGNOSIS
by Richard Karsmakers
It has taken Psygnosis (or, rather, some people who call
themselves Echelon Games) over 1 year to do the ST version of the
infamous Amiga program "Shadow of the Beast II". This game won a
multitude of prizes at many award ceremonies, usually involving
'best graphics', 'best animation' and 'best sound'. Some people
even seem to have bombarded it to 'best game', something which is
utterly incomprehensible as playability was quite low and all the
game had to live off were its stunning visuals and magnificent
sound on aforementioned games machine.
At around the time that "Beast II" came out on the Amiga,
Psygnosis brought out the original "Shadow of the Beast" on the
ST. That version was done, I seem to recall, by Eldritch the Cat
or something (don't kill me if I'm wrong). The ST version was
lousy. It scrolled like the proverbial excrements, its
playability was ultimately naff and it was generally a game that
would have made me quite pissed off if Psygnosis had actually
sold it to me for the 25 squazoolies they normally ask for it.
I am afraid that the notorious sequel, "Shadow of the Beast II",
is not much better. Even though another programming team has had
the chance to do it and everything.
The concept is slightly better than that of its prequel. Now you
do not simply walk across a zillion-parallax scrolling landscape
with the odd monster occurring to be bashed, but you actually
have to interact somewhat. The number of different monsters has
increased as well, so there has obviously been more work done.
Instead of an extreme amount of parallax layers they now opted
for less parallax and more realism. The Amiga version (which I
have seen actually) succeeded well there. Visuals were, as I said
before, simply stunning and hardly simple. The parallax effect
was great and, more importantly, the who whole game ran in 1 vbl
(i.e. 50 screen refreshes per second, which gives true arcade
quality smoothness). Sound was brilliant. And, of course, the
intro was the best conceivable. It was just like looking at a
movie, with great animation and ultra atmospheric sound.
The ST version was totally cocked up, really.
It all starts with the intro, of course, that takes up the
entire first of the two disks in the package. Where the Amiga has
32 or more colours to play with at the screen the ST has less. I
had expected graphics to be less, but I had not expected them to
be like they turned out to. They seem to have been calculated
down to 16 colours without brushing up afterwards. What you get
is graphics that only look good when you close your eyes a bit so
that all becomes hazy.
And there's no sound.
Really no sound at all. Not even a bit of naff soundchip beeps.
Nothing. Animations are still very smooth, but the big problem
is that you get about 2 to 3 seconds of animation, then 15
seconds of loading, than another second or 2 of animation, et
cetera until the whole thing has been done. Do note that my ST
has 4 Mb of memory, so that means that there's plenty of space
for the entire disk contains to be sucked in memory instead of
all this loading in the middle of the animation (during loading,
everything else freezes).
What a bummer, really.
And the lack of music also sucked. With the amount of things
going on on the screen they could easily have included a 4-voice
digi tune with the "TCB Tracker" or "Quartet". But no.
After a simple message along the lines of "INSERT DISK 2" that
is printed on the screen using the standard ST font (so no piccy,
no font, no colours, nothing), the actual menu and game start
And hold on to your chair, for you're in for quite another bit
of heavy letting down (if you get my drift).
The menu occurs after a while. It consists of a beautiful,
atmospheric picture with the menu options on top of it. This time
you do get some music, and it's of good quality too - done by
Sound Images. Digitized of course. It's enough to let your hopes
at a decent conversion flourish once more.
The options in the menu show that "Beast I" got some feedback
with regard to loading times. It is possible to turn off the
music during the game (standard soundchip music, which I suspect
does not take more then 2 or 3 second to load and which can
easily be kept in memory at all times, especially when more than
1 Mb is found), and to turn off the game over sequence. This,
they reckon, will speed up all loading as you die fairly quickly
and the game over sequence needs a long time to load.
On the Amiga, that is.
On the ST, the game over sequences is merely a picture. A good
picture, it needs to be said. But no extensive digital music
thatz used to cause giant slow-down on the Amiga (which has slow
disk I/O to begin with). This option was, thus, slightly
superfluous. When you die it takes 18 seconds of looking at a
totally black screen before you get to the menu. With the game-
over sequence in between it (when exited immediately) this takes
But let's get down to the actual game, shall we?
We're in for some serious laughing here. Laughing, that is, if
you haven't bought the game yourself or got it for Christmas. If
you do have it, it means crying your eyes out.
Loading the game (i.e. the time between pressing "Start Quest"
and the arcade bit of the game starting) lasts 35 seconds. Of
course, during loading you have to be satisfied with a totally
and utterly blank, albeit black screen.
Then the game starts.
You get a screen with a status bar occupying the lowest couple
of lines. The entire action screen is made up of two parallax
layers and a background of rasters. These rasters are the worst
flickering rasters I have seen ever since (sorry Tim) the 1988
Lost Boys' "Def Demo". And it gets even worse once you start
moving, i.e. when everything starts to scroll.
The background parallax layer is a 1-colour (i.e. 1 plane)
silhouetted thing that only scrolls left and right as you walk
left or right. The front layer is the one you're actually walking
on, and that scrolls in any direction you want. Colours of the
top parallax layer as well as all the monsters and the Beast
itself (i.e. you) are very bland. Well, bad is the word actually.
Again, it seems like the original 32-colour thingies of the Amiga
have been loaded in a bad ST drawing program and crudely
converted down to 16 colours (or even less, corresponding with
the amount of planes the shape may use).
The graphics, to be honest, could easily be categorised as
'worse than the prequel'. And the original "Beast" (ST version)
had bad graphics to begin with.
Next thing you will want to do is start to walk around a bit.
You have to walk over a landscape where monsters occur that,
predictably, all want to kill you. Some even say things that
occur in the status line, and you can even interact with some.
But if you walk about two screens to the left you'll find that
everything suddenly freezes and the game starts loading the new
bit of the landscape map in memory. This takes 15 seconds, during
which nothing can be done.
By then you're surely getting very angry, especially if you have
a 4 Mb machine that can easily absorb both double-sided disks and
still have plenty of memory to work with.
By then all you can do is press the reset button and do
something decent (which is basically anything except playing
Am I slagging off the ST now?
No, not by a long shot.
If the programmers would have been better the game could have
been pretty damn close to the Amiga version. I personally know
people who would have done a near perfect job on it, Stefan being
one of them provided he would have had the time. I realise this
sounds awfully harsh to the Echelon people but, frankly, they are
completely incompetent technically. They may be very nice people
to deal with, but they obviously don't know how to address the
ST's capabilities one bit.
I really hope Psygnosis will refrain from doing an ST version of
any sequels to any "Beast" titles - either that, or handing the
job over to an expert ST programming team such as The Lost Boys,
The Carebears, Till Bübeck ("Rings of Medusa") or Eclipse
I think the entire review so far should be repeated in a
conclusion. But I think I can say that you should just not part
with your hard earned cash in exchange for this. It's a very bad
game and I pray that the number of ST people who bought this have
been limited. If priced at 2 quid it would even have been
expensive because you can get two empty disks for less.
There is so much better stuff for a similar or lower price.
Title: Shadow of the Beast II
Value for money: 3
Overall rating: 3
Hardware: DS drive, colour monitor
Remark: Worthless trash, I'm afraid
I know it sound stupid but I would still like to thank Mr. Nik
Wild of Psygnosis for sending the game to me. I really wish
Psygnosis would not do this to ST owners. I am rapidly beginning
to believe that the ST is not killed off by piracy but be the
general quality of most ST games - even though I know it's the
other way around.
Mr. Wild: I know this all sounds much worse than ungrateful, but
if I gave the game a higher rating I would be betraying the
readers. I'm very sorry. Stick to games like "Lemmings", please!
You can do it! Why don't you?
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.