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Shining in the Darkness (Genesis) artwork

Shining in the Darkness (Genesis) review

"Venture deeper, and your numerous skirmishes are the least of your worries. Pitfalls drop you gleefully to levels below; trick walls hide valuable chests and artefacts vital for your continuation; rotating floor-disks cunningly hidden from your view dizzily spin you on the spot when trod upon, disorientating and confusing the unwary."

If you are going to be a knight under the command of king and country, you'd want to be the best; young, brave, strong -- full of spit and vinegar. If you were such a knight, you'd want to be noticed from the word go. You'd want people to point you out at jousting tournaments and say things like, "By the beard of Merlin, that boy is going to do great things!", whilst you proceed to trounce your opposition effortlessly. If you could choose, wouldn't you choose to be the best?

Or would you take the lazy route, and have daddy reign as your knightly commander?

Shining in the Darkness gives you the best of both. Your custom-named protagonist is indeed the toast of the royal knights. Hardly out of training, the rambunctious scamp is already drawing critical acclaim from his peers and is heralded to be the next big thing in dragon slaying and armour modelling. If the game weren't played from a first-person perspective, it would be a fair bet that your lead would rival Adonis himself in the looks department. And if all that wasn't enough, Mortred, his adoring father, co-stars as his mentor and commander. To recap: mad skills, the adoration of the people and bloodline leverage -- what more could a growing boy want?

Why, adventure of course! And the chance comes early on when, for some improbably deranged reason, the young and beautiful princess of the realm wants to visit the monster-choked labyrinth just beyond her castles protective walls. Said labyrinth is believed to have some unfathomable connection with the anniversary of her mother's death or some similar ill-thought rubbish. For such a dangerous quest, she was to be accompanied by Mortred himself.

But disaster strikes! Because, as such poorly-explained and plot-expansive missions are wont to do, things go terribly wrong. With his daughter and Morty missing in action, the king sends for his next best knight -- which, of course, is you -- to go in there and jolly well get them back! Eager to rescue the princess and save daddy in one swoop, you gladly step forward to brave the evils that haunt the awaiting labyrinth. Your resolve is only bolstered by a quick visit from a gloating villain, a magical apparition that goes by the name of Dark Sol.

And with a name like that, you know he's going to be the very epitome of evil!

Of course, the Labyrinth is the only one of the three accessible locations offered in the minuscule universe of Shining in the Darkness that a respectable villain could haunt. The other two being the castle, where king and council will offer you guidance, and the nearby village, filled with stores, taverns and shrines all at your disposal.

Upon entering the winding innards of the labyrinth itself, things take a turn towards the darker. The music will shift gear from its laid-back, cheerful siren-call employed in the castle and nearby village to something all the more sinister. It's made clear that it's up to you to navigate through its ever-turning passages and claustrophobic corridors, all the while braving a hoard of nasties that would love to do nothing more than end your quest early.

The enemies that lurk within range from oft-feared slime beasts, poison-filled killer bees, club wielding orcs and the intimidating multi-limbed Kaiser crab that furiously guards the entrance to the second stage -- all merrily presented in the lively and colourful atmosphere you'd come to expect from the Shining franchise. Whereas other big name first-person dungeon-crawlers such as Eye of the Beholder will wrap their world in gloom and shadows, here you will find everything presented sharply and crisply. The vibrant monsters that lurk within certainly have the looks; but they also possess more.

They have their teeth and claws. And this is paired with enough repressed anger to gut any would-be hero where he stands. Numerous in rank, and not afraid to gang up on unsuspecting victims, they roam their territory fiercely. To begin with, you'll only possess those skills you've learnt as a trainee knight, and will have to rely on pure brawn to get through your encounters. Once the aforementioned killer crab falls, simply hitting things until they stop moving wont get you very far. The dungeon's name might have been your first clue to the maze-like interior, and you'll be entering the labyrinth proper soon.

You've swum out of the kiddy pool, and there are sharks in the deep end.

Venture deeper, and your numerous skirmishes are the least of your worries. Pitfalls drop you gleefully to levels below; trick walls hide valuable chests and artefacts vital for your continuation; rotating floor-disks cunningly hidden from your view dizzily spin you on the spot when trod upon, disorientating and confusing the unwary. Magical mosses line corridors of worth, leeching away at your life-force as you trample through -- and that's just to name a few. Brawn has to be backed up with brains to survive the labyrinth; especially when you consider that you are supplied with no map, only a temporary reprieve that exchanges an item or a spell to see a quick snatch of the level you're exploring.

As you can now guess, those expecting Shining in the Darkness to be a stroll in the park have a shock coming to them. When you're not up to your waist in the latest horde of monsters heartily trying to introduce your small intestines to the outside world, the twisting labyrinth itself exhibits an almost maniacal glee in torturing you. Brave it out, and perhaps you'll outlast the mythical collection of beasts that bars your progress and find the princess waiting to be rescued. Think before you leap, and perhaps you'll bypass the dastardly traps and maybe have your chance to step out from the shadow of your father. You might even make it to the end of the ordeal, and face off with the twisted enigma Dark Sol himself. But it won't be easy. Leave the safety of the castle, or the hospitable camaraderie of the village, and there is but the labyrinth. And in there, everything is stacked against you.

So rack up that gold as you battle and buy yourself a shiny new broadsword from one of the village shops, not forgeting to stock up on as many consumable items as your limited inventory will let you carry. If you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you're going to need all the help you can get. Because that light might just be a wandering flame elemental.

Make daddy proud.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 05, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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