Shadow Man Remastered (PC) Review

By Athanasios 19.05.2021

Review for Shadow Man Remastered on PC

Nightdive Studios is a company that remasters old classics, as well as abandonware, re-releasing them for modern systems… and it is doing a pretty darn good job, as it doesn't simply cater to the highly profitable nostalgia factor, but actually makes its versions the definitive ones - excellent for fans of such old-school titles, or for those who want to try them out, and just don't want to deal with any compatibility issues. Shadow Man Remastered is one such occasion, and probably one of the developer's best one yet, as it takes the 1999 cult classic, polishes it, and even re-forges and adds cut content. This is, without a doubt, a great remaster. Was the game that good to begin with, however? Take a look, as Cubed3 enters the Deadside, to embrace the darkness.

The ones who carry the title of the Shadow Man, have the ability to travel between the realm of the living, and Deadside, the land were everyone eventually ends up. Michael LeRoi, the current bearer of the Mask of Shadows, is tasked by a Voodoo gal with saving the world from an upcoming apocalyptic event, which was initiated by an otherworldly creature called The Legion. The lone hero must travel to the demon's titanic base of operations, a Babel tower-like spire known as the Asylum, and defeat five notorious killers, gather Dark Souls, and destroy the big evil cheese, before it's too late. Exciting as that might sound, however, don't go in expecting much in the way of storytelling. It's a basic kill-the-bad-guy "plot," with a bit of - text-only - lore thrown in to spice things up, but that's about it, really.

Screenshot for Shadow Man Remastered on PC

Thankfully, the atmosphere, look, and sound of Shadow Man are all so good, that they successfully manage to fill the gap the paper-thin story has left behind. Deadside, the bizarre afterlife that Michael must brave, is a macabre place made out if sickly coloured rock, skin, and flesh textures, and depressing, rusty metal. Its design is abstract, rather than "functional" and realistic, and, combined with the usually discomforting ambient music, gives the feeling that you are inside the mind of an insane person, rather than an actual place. The corny voice-acting, and cheesy prose Michael offers whenever he enters a new area, aren't enough to ruin the strong horror vibe this has, which was the main reason why plenty of people loved it back in the day. Sadly, atmosphere alone can't do much…

At the end of the day, Shadow Man is nothing more than a collect-a-thon platformer the likes of Spyro the Dragon, plus some Soul Reaver-style action. The bulk of the gameplay revolves around searching for Dark Souls, which, much like in a metroidvania, enable opening up new locations to explore, where it's possible to find better equipment, or… well, more Souls. Now, being a collect-a-thon isn't a bad thing on its own - this just doesn't pull that off very well. An immense amount of backtracking is required here, with the world being structured in such a way that it's more annoying to traverse than challenging, with the most common source of aggravation being the fact that one can spent 10 or more minutes of mindless exploration just to receive one more freaking Dark Soul.

Screenshot for Shadow Man Remastered on PC

It should be pointed out that Dark Souls aren't some sort of optional collectibles, but key collectibles. Actually, they are one big key, divided in 120 small pieces, and scattered all over the world. As such, progress is painfully slow, and far from rewarding. It doesn't help that the rest of the gameplay isn't that great either. Moving around occasionally requires some simple jumping, rope climbing, and switch-hunting, and combat is a dull affair that has players strafing around enemies while shooting at them, with every single one being a bullet sponge that takes too long to die, making it preferable to leave them be, and kill them only when necessary. With one word, it's archaic. It's something that might have been fan back in the late '90s, but the medium has evolved since then.

Screenshot for Shadow Man Remastered on PC

Long story short, there's nothing wrong with the concept. Collect-a-thons and metroidvanias are great when done right, after all - this just wasn't done right. Whereas in a masterpiece like Super Metroid a new ability would open up a new, meaty area to have some fun with, Shadow Man has you exploring a needlessly big, and largely empty maze, just to get a measly amount of progress if you get to find one of the many key items that are hidden all around. It grows old and repetitive way too soon, with even the awesome atmosphere diminishing after running around aimlessly at the same level for two long. This could definitely benefit from "compressing" the content at hand, making the world smaller, and decreasing the amount of collectibles, instead of outstaying its welcome.

Of course, Shadow Man has/had many, many fans. People blinded by nostalgia, or people that just have a different taste in games? No matter the reason, this is a tough title to recommend to just anyone, especially if allergic to collect-a-thons. The good news? This remaster is fantastic. The visual upgrade makes the original look 10 times better, while also retaining its unique charm, and adding the usual stuff expected from such a release, like widescreen support, higher frame rates, and so on. Bugs have been fixed, controller support has been fixed, and even all cut content has been added, with Nightdive going the extra mile to complete some unfinished levels before implementing them in. Shadow Man Remastered is the best way to experience Deadside. Whether you'll enjoy your stay is a different matter…

Screenshot for Shadow Man Remastered on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

What is Shadow Man Remastered? It's a great remaster, of a not so great game. A tedious collect-a-thon wrapped in fancy horror-themed paper. It isn't really that fun, and not just because of its age, as, in all honesty, it wasn't that enjoyable to begin with. Despite being quite the sleeper hit of its era, it's an action-adventure whose overstretched length, and aggravatingly labyrinthine structure won't be appreciated by everyone, especially modern gamers. If still curious to try Shadow Man out, do purchase Nightdive's version, though, as it is undoubtedly the definite one.

Developer

Nightdive Studios

Publisher

Nightdive Studios

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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