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Shadow of the Beast II (Genesis) artwork

Shadow of the Beast II (Genesis) review

"Psygnosis apparently thought that their cavemen were so cleverly hidden that the player would not be able to see half their bodies poking out from the leaves. No, you are only able to attack the cavemen once you walk beneath them (which just so happens to trigger them leaping from the tree on top of your head, damaging you in the process)."

Tonight, I was going to review Electronic Arts' crap classic Budokan. But then I realized that trying to play that game is far too painful... if it even loads. Before I review a game, I like to either win it or sink a good many hours into it. In Budokan's case, neither of those goals are reasonable. So, I dug through my stack of boxless carts, until I laid my hands upon:

Shadow of the Beast 2 (also brought to the Genesis by Electronic Arts)

This game is supposed to be a sequel to the first Shadow of the Beast, but it's lacking the first part's beautiful line-scrolling terrains, fantastic music, and pleasant backgrounds.

SOB 2 (an unfortunate abbreviation) is an "exploration platformer", similar to Metroid, except that this one is horrible. You run to a boring area, killing enemies and avoiding traps on the way, solve an obscure and ludicrously cryptic puzzle, then run to another boring area with whatever items or clues you've gained... to solve another obscure and ludicrously cryptic puzzle. Every so often you engage in battle against some diabolical (and ridiculously powerful) boss.

It's not all bad, though. The main character is actually very well-animated and responsive to the controls. Unfortunately, his design is utterly uninspired. Gone is the furry wolfman from the original Shadow of the Beast; SOB 2 instead features a gloriously animated caveman. His design consists of off-pink flesh, long brown hair, and a brown loincloth. If that sounds boring, you're right -- he doesn't have Gogan's cool hair or Bonk's cool lack of hair.

Perhaps the strangest element of SOB 2 is your caveman's main weapon. In the original Shadow, you punched a lot. For the sequel, bare fists just wouldn't do! But what weapon would Psygnosis choose for their underdressed hero? Did they choose a sword? No. Club? No. Spear? No. Instead, your mighty caveman attacks his demonic foes with the Yo-Yo of Doom(TM). Just like a Japanese sukeban.(1) Apparently Legendary Axe's... axe... wasn't interesting enough for Psygnosis.

"A yo-yo? Um, right. What is it, really?"

It's a yo-yo (or more specifically, the Yo-Yo of Doom(TM))

1) Press attack button.
2) Ball, string attached, extends from hand.
3) Ball reaches end of string.
4) Ball returns to hand.

The yo-yo is kind of silly, but it moves quickly and it's responsive. If you tap the button, it extends a short distance. If you hold the button down, it extends to full length. In other words, it doesn't suck as badly as it could have. If you really want a cooler weapon, they're available as powerups. They only last 9 seconds, but they're available.

Unfortunately, there's a big problem with the control. Some people have unjustly claimed that you need to be pixel-perfect when trying to jump onto ropes. That's not true. It's very easy to grab onto a rope when you jump! The problem is that when you push "down" to climb down, the game decides that what you really want to do is not something so silly as descend the rope, but rather you want to fall into an acidic pit of slime below. So, instead of climbing down the rope, you leap to your gruesome flesh-dissolving death.

Which brings up the issue of difficulty. Not only is there the "rope issue", but many of the enemies are very, very cheap. For example! If you choose to head right when you start the game, you will (after the game stops in midscreen to load -- loading on a cartridge?) come to an area where you can see other cavemen, armed with spears, hiding in trees. You can jump up and swing your yo-yo, you can throw axes (if you've found that powerup) -- but it's all to no avail. Psygnosis apparently thought that their cavemen were so cleverly hidden that the player would not be able to see half their bodies poking out from the leaves. No, you are only able to attack the cavemen once you walk beneath them (which just so happens to trigger them leaping from the tree on top of your head, damaging you in the process).

So, the game is pretty hard. In fact, with the "cheap hits issue" and the "rope issue" it's frustratingly difficult. However, there is a lot to be seen, and there are many interesting enemies. I was fully prepared to give this game a rating of 4. It might be difficult, but any game can be beaten with enough effort.

So, I sat down to play the game some more. I was actually doing very well. I found one key (by solving the stupidest puzzle ever) and proceeded to use that key to find a second key. Two keys! That's pretty good.

When I backtracked to try and find another locked door, I noticed something. Perhaps it was the tree hovering in mid-air or the invisible bridge that I was walking on that clued me in, but I realized the game seemed to have encountered a bug. Gone were all the enemies. Gone were the barriers blocking me from advancing further. In fact, the only things remaining were all the treasures (which I happily gathered up).

So, I sped across the land (avoiding invisible acid), ran underneath an upside down house suspended from the ceiling, and stepped off a cliff which magically whisked me through a wall to... somewhere in the air above a river flowing through a house.

*click* AUTOMATIC FAILURE. I've seen bugs before, but that's crazy! Frankly, I'd rather that a game just not even function than screw up partway through. Shadow of the Beast 2 never should have made it out of playtesting, and I simply cannot recommend it at all. If you want to play a mediocre game and risk running into a fatal bug after all your effort, go ahead. Me? I'll pass, thanks. Next.


(1) A sukeban is a delinquent Japanese schoolgirl. Their weapon of choice is the yo-yo, as depicted in the Sukeban Deka series. In other words: in SOB 2, your caveman fights like a little schoolgirl.

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (April 24, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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