>> PennOaks.net > Archive 64 > Review House

Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers

Rated E for Everyone


Nintendo 64 (N64)




Infinite Ventures


June 1999

ROM Size:

128 megabits




3D Adventure/Puzzle


Controller Pak (30 pages)


Rumble Pak



> Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0


Back in 1989, Kemco-Seika released a genre-busting point and click adventure for the Nintendo Entertainment System that required brain rather than brawn. The breakout hit known as Shadowgate inspired other similar games but never received a sequel. Until now. Infinite Ventures is a company incorporated by some members of the original Shadowgate development team. They wanted to expand the world of Shadowgate. Its first efforts can be seen in Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers for Nintendo 64.


A great battle once was waged between the powers of good and evil. The Warlock Lord and his black magic pushed the kingdom of Kal Torlin to the edge of annihilation. A courageous young warrior, Jair, was guided to his birthright—the legendary Staff of Ages—and was helped by the summoned wizard Lakmir. Using its power, Jair was able to banish the Warlock Lord from Castle Shadowgate and restore peace to the land. The timeless wizard Lakmir took up residence in the castle as a sentinel against the escape of imprisoned evil.


One hundred years have passed since Lakmir's footsteps were heard through the halls of the castle. Shadowgate has been reduced to shambles, becoming a place of plunder and thievery. Unfortunately, for a young Halfling named Del Cottonwood, he's about to become a visitor in the castle's dungeons. Yet he's lucky to be alive after his caravan was raided. With only his wits, Del has to escape before he's executed.

Gameplay & Control

Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers isn't like your typical 3D action, adventure, or shooter game. It is played from a first-person, three-dimensional, free-moving perspective—except you don't see any gun or hand. But you don't attack with high-powered guns. You don't perform special moves. Basically, there's no action. This game is all about using your wits to figure out puzzles. You need to examine things, find items, and figure out how to use them. Where this sequel differs from the original was that each room was a single graphic in the original. Now you have complete freedom of movement to examine anything in the larger environments.


Not much can be found in the way of control or options in Shadowgate 64. An option exists to show the text in English and Spanish. You can save, load, and delete your save file. It takes 30 pages on the Controller Pak to make four save files for the game. Finally, you can toggle the background music volume level, you can increase or decrease the brightness, and you can switch the 3D stick between "flight" and "original"—whether pressing up on the Control Stick looks down (flight) or actually looks up (original).


A Turok-like control scheme is used in Shadowgate 64, which is important because you'll need to look up and down a lot for clues and items. The Control Stick looks up and down and turns left and right. The C buttons are used to move your character forward and backward and to sidestep. The A button examines and speaks. The B button opens the item/book screen. (The Left and Right C buttons switch screens, and the A button turns book pages.) The R button views the map screen. (The Bottom and Top C button switch between maps.) Finally, the Z button crouches.


Shadowgate 64 also can be considered as a text-heavy adventure. As you move around the environments, you'll find things to examine—sometimes they're legitimate items or clues and sometimes it's just a general description of what you found. Whenever the item or area is in the center of the screen in front of you, just press the A button to bring up a message box. The message box contains information about the object. If it's an item, you have the opportunity to pick it up. Most, but not all, items have a use in the game, including seemingly ordinary items. Because of the amount of text in the game, spoken dialogue could not be included.


The following is an example of the puzzle style in Shadowgate 64. It's what you need to do to get through the very first puzzle in the game. As you awake to find yourself trapped in a cell, you look for a way out. You notice a prisoner in the next cell. He seems to think there's no way out, but he may give you some insight. The guard arrives with your meal. You eat it and leave a bone. You see the bone drop to the ground, so you examine it and take it. Then you see straw on the floor. Examining the straw area will give you the option to push away the straw, which reveals a metal grate. But it's too heavy to lift. If you can pry it, maybe it will open. Then you remember to use your leftover bone as a lever to open the grating. Now you can escape through the sewers.


As you can see, examining objects and figuring out how to use items are the keys to puzzles in Shadowgate 64. Unfortunately, that's about as easy as it gets. Things start to get perplexing rather quickly after that. Moreover, you have to watch out so you don't kill yourself by walking off ledges, by running into traps, and by stepping into deep water. The majority of your time, however, will be spent figuring out what to do next. It's rewarding fun if you're into mind-numbing brain teasers. You even may want to play the game with someone else who likes this type of game. It also should be mentioned that you have the opportunity to save anywhere by pressing the Start button and picking the option—a real lifesaver.

Graphics & Sound

Full freedom of movement helps immerse you into the World of Shadowgate, but it's also limited by the game's technically lackluster game engine. The game runs smoothly, but it is hampered by repetitive, blurry textures and by a lack of special effects. The game's imaginative characters are limited by polygon graphics that don't have enough detail and aren't animated well enough.


The sound portion in Shadowgate 64 is surprisingly good. Generic or limited ambient music won't be found here. Instead, a rather mystical and medieval soundtrack accompanies the story and your adventure through Castle Shadowgate. It should be noted, however, that it does get repetitive as you spent lots of time in certain areas of the game. Sound effects appear to be spot-on and plentiful. The sound really helps to convey a mood-filled atmosphere.


Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers isn't for everyone. This long and difficult quest requires many wits and much patience to conquer. If you enjoyed the original game, then you'll definitely enjoy this update—that is, if you don't mind the blurry graphics. If you never played the original game, then you better rent Shadowgate 64 before you buy it. At any rate, it's refreshing to play such an original style game.
















Not available.


Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed: May 23, 2000

Appendix Added: N/A




>> PennOaks.net > Archive 64 > Review House