back to article Shadow of the Beast: Amiga classic returns from the darkness

Let’s state one fact clearly from the start: for all its virtues, Shadow of the Beast did not play especially well. Its often half-baked platform action appeared promising at first, but was let down ultimately by having no game-save positions, a frustratingly high difficulty level and a general lack of fair and progressive …

  1. Pig Dog Bay
    Windows

    Lucky trench diggers

    The only time I played on an Amiga was when I went round my mates house, a mate whose dad bought him everything. I had to go home and play Rastan Saga on me speccy

  2. AbelSoul
    Pint

    Custom chips

    Fondly named Agnus and Denise

    Wonderful hardware for the time and perfectly suited to that type of game.

    Amiga’s relatively advanced audio controller – the chip otherwise known as Paula, to fans in the know

    My personal favourite.

    Paula helped me on the way to my first musical dabblings, annoying the neighbours and generally producing a right, old racket. A hobby (habit?) which persists to this day.

    Amiga, I salute you!

    1. Clockworkseer

      Re: Custom chips

      Not just agnus, the uprated version was Fat Agnus, and the next uprated attempt was, yes, Fatter Agnus.

      Along with the demise of Guru Meditations, I miss all the character from the amiga days.

      1. AbelSoul

        Re: the demise of Guru Meditations

        Reports of Guru Meditation's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

        It's alive* and kicking in the latest version of AmigaOS, 4.1, the last release of which was late last year.

        *Alas, the user base has shrunk to almost nothing. I'd guess at a coupla thousand, worldwide.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: the demise of Guru Meditations

          Guru Meditations are also still to be found in Virtualbox, I saw one only last week.

          1. Dallas IT

            Re: the demise of Guru Meditations

            And don't forget, one can run AmigaForever and experience all the Guru Meditations they wish... :-)

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Custom chips

      And don't forget Gary who allowed that DMA floppy loads while actually doing something else, like graphics and music. Never tried SotB, not my type of game at all.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: Custom chips

        Shadow of the Best want really a game though, it was an advanced technology demo.

        Any attempt at interaction was punished by things like invisible insta-kill traps, long climbs to death, or just a screen full of materialising enemies that killed with a touch.

  3. Professor Clifton Shallot

    Altered

    I was thinking of Altered Beast. I thought it all looked a bit different.

  4. TRT Silver badge

    You're right...

    It convinced me to buy an Amiga. We had a couple of A1000 for use in the laboratory because nothing else could throw a screen full of windowed texture around like an Amiga; the copper was just superb for that, and the 1000 had a PC coprocessor card as well, so you could run two machines synchronised to stimulate visually and record whatever in perfect synchronisation. As the techie guy, I played around with the disks that came out of the box and was hooked. I immediately saved up several paycheques and bought an A500 for home. Had a little computing room in the back of the house with a music studio and CAD/CAM setup. Loved it. Then I needed the space for the baby, the Amiga got boxed and sold, and that was that.

  5. Matthew 17

    it was the music

    When that game landed on the Amiga the score knocked my socks off, sure I was a big fan of what the C64 had been doing for the most part we just had the blippy tones from the NES, Master System, Mega Drive, PC and whatnot. Then suddenly there was this epic-sounding Korg M1 sampled thing that was being pumped through large speakers in game shops. There really wasn't anything else like it at the time. Sure it wasn't a great game but so what, look at it! And listen to that sound!

    OK none of it was as good as Turrican 2 on the same machine but SotB was the reason I wanted an Amiga and spunked all my paper-round money on buying a 500.

    1. Stig2k

      Re: it was the music

      Upvote for the reminder of Turrican 2. Gonna have to dig out the emulator this weekend :)

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: it was the music

      Disappointed no music in that PS4 preview.

    3. The Jon
      Thumb Up

      Re: it was the music

      +1 for the music. Sure the ST had midi built in, but the Amiga 4 channel stereo was head and shoulders above any other home computer at the time.

      I think I spent more time using SoundTracker / NoiseTracker / MED etc. than playing games on my old A500. I managed to amass disks and disks of ripped Module files - memory could be scanned after a soft reset and a Module Ripper could save out the data - all to get at those precious samples for my own (terrible) tunes...

      As for my favourite tunes, too many to list but include: Shadow of the Beast; Obliterator; Gods (amazing); Xenon 2 (naturally); Jesus on Es mega-demo; Pinball Dreams.

      1. JohnnyGStrings

        Re: it was the music

        Cool - I too used to rip the tracker modules out of memory after soft resetting (or just exiting the many PD demos back to AmigaDOS then running the ripper from there)... used to rip gfx too sometimes, though that was less straight-forward :) Good days :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it was the music

        What was MIDI though? oh yes, just a serial port at 31250 baud. So it's inclusion on the ST was convenient but hardly a high power piece of tech.

        The hi-res flickerless monitor was handy for music sequencers too.

        Moi? I much preferred having decent audio built in, I do wonder if we'd have MOD files today without the Amiga.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: it was the music

          All the ST owners kept going on about the magical midi port. In the end I bought one for about £20 for my A1500, but couldn't fathom what the fuss was about!

          I had better everything, they had a £20 add-on box included. Who were they kidding?

          1. Ben Bonsall

            Re: it was the music

            You could network STs with the midi ports... There were a bunch of multiplayer games working like this (mostly PD though). Midi maze was the best- Networked FPS where all the characters were big grinning spheres. A friend of mine wrote a 3d tennis game you needed red-blue glasses for. Fun times :)

      3. Dallas IT

        Re: it was the music

        "As for my favourite tunes, too many to list but include: Shadow of the Beast; Obliterator; Gods (amazing); Xenon 2 (naturally); Jesus on Es mega-demo; Pinball Dreams."

        Into... the wonderful.

        I leave as an exercise for the astute reader which track had that sample/lyric. And I agree - an epic tune!

  6. graeme leggett

    Pysgnosis

    I bought a fair few Psygnosis titles - and I think a lot of them fell into both "lovely to look at" and " too hard to be fun" categories.

    Well that's what I think I remember....it was all a long while ago.

    1. Mike Brown

      Re: Pysgnosis

      that pretty much sums up psygnosis games. The 2nd levels may have been dog ugly for all i know, as i never ever seen them.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Pysgnosis

        example

        The Killing Game Show - brilliant intro (look it up on youtube) foillowed by impossible platformer

      2. Simple Si

        Re: Pysgnosis

        Agreed. I remember Armageddon, another psygnosis game - Was never sure what I was supposed to do in that game, but had so much fun driving and flying around the place.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhqIfBIl3RI

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Ooops, pet peeve triggered

      To this day I remain mystified by games forcing the player to replay known parts over and over as some sort of punishment for failure. Fine, I understand one is not supposed to let the player waltz through a game essentially unopposed, but I consider artificially extending gameplay by mandatory replay of arbitrarily long previous sections a particularly cheap and nasty trick.

      I know I'm not going to be popular with this view, but here's the thing: I play to have fun, to be entertained. I have less than zero interest in finely honing arbitrary leet skillz of pressing A + B + stick-up-and-left + right-trigger just the right millisecond in the upper right corner of screen 281. Some might take pride in such aptitudes, that's fine; I just see no reason to play anything that erects tall barriers I must be able to overcome if I want to progress. I have no desire to prove anything to anybody, if I want to get frustrated that's what real life is for. I don't need a game to realize I'd make a piss-poor silent assassin or F1 pilot in ultra-realistic real-life conditions, so please stop trying to train me to be one, okay? Instead, I prefer to be challenged at just about my skill level - make me work for progress, but not harder than I'm capable of. Sadly, too many games take the easy road of "creating playtime" by obstacle-stacking over the (admittedly harder / more expensive) option of a larger world and more meaningful gameplay... </rant>

      1. John Sanders
        Holmes

        Re: Ooops, pet peeve triggered

        """To this day I remain mystified by games forcing the player to replay known parts over and over as some sort of punishment for failure."""

        I found an explanation for this.

        There are two types of human beings, one type which are really good at hand-to-eye coordination and quick memorization of routine movements.

        And the rest of us.

        The gaming experience of the time were the Arcade machines, which where in turn designed for the first type of human being. This was done obviously to get as many quarters as possible.

        Developers making games for computers "at the time" though that unless a game was hard it was no fun, and that it would be over too soon, they had to match the experience of the arcades.

        Some developers used that to hide the fact that some games were indeed too short, or too shitty.

        A trend that began to set the tide backwards is that at some point more people began playing games using trainers so they could see the art than people who was having fun playing the game.

        Also as the novelty of the new awesome quality wore off people became more savvy on which games to spend the money on, suddenly there were new genres, FPS, RTS, RPGs, point and click adventures, gameplay forever diverged from the Arcade style of games which stopped being the major source of inspiration.

      2. breakfast

        Re: Ooops, pet peeve triggered

        I don't enjoy fiddly and ridiculous game difficulties, but I do rather enjoy a bit of Dark Souls, which is punishingly difficult but never feels unfair, it just makes you angry with yourself for being such an idiot. Of course it does also give you safe starting points and allow you to start from different ones, which is something those old-school games could really have used doing.

        The old fashioned thing where you had to learn to be pixel perfect on a specific jump was purely frustrating, but games where the way you win is by learning to be better at the game - as opposed to simply by persisting - are something I can get behind.

      3. Alex Walsh

        Re: Ooops, pet peeve triggered

        Surely a result of limited storage media/memory? In the tape days, games were short but bloody hard because you couldn't get much into 16/48/64k of RAM and lets face it, there were too many multi-load games that you'd load the next bit with one life, die immediately and then have to rewind the tape and reload the level you'd just finished. Used to get fed up with disk swapping on the 16bit home computers too :/

        Today games are long, not necessarily hard.

  7. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    My whole reason for getting into the Amiga

    I watched the NewTek videos and "Shadow of the Beast" demo on display at the local BX for hours at a time back in 1990-1991. In 1993, I finally I purchased my first Amiga, an Amiga 500, second-hand for the sole purpose of acquiring SotB. Only to discover that it was not included in the collection, but several other Psygnosis games were such as "Ballistix," which quickly became another favorite, "Blood Money," and "The Killing Game Show."

    I only ever completed "Beast" once (or maybe twice) but it has never ever lost its attraction. On some odd days I will still fire it up via WHDLoad and play for several hours, losing track of time until eventually being snapped back into our universe. (Even the Commodore 64 port, the rendition I owned before finally obtaining an Amiga, is a feat in play and quality and held me for long spans.)

    Thus began my saga into the Amiga and I have never looked back with any regret or second thought. I still love using and playing on this platform. I am an Amiga user to my very last days, and I will be attending the 30th Anniversary in California this year, my first ever Amiga gathering.

    1. AbelSoul
      Thumb Up

      Re: I am an Amiga user to my very last days

      I imagine I probably will be too.

      Despite hardly using the things these days, I can't bring myself to part with any of the four machines I still have and I had a brief play with one of them last week.

      My main hobby is now pursued almost exclusively via OSX / Logic and my work via Windows / Visual Studio.

      But there's just something about the Amiga that refreshes the parts that neither of those platforms could ever quite reach.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My whole reason for getting into the Amiga

      Crikey, that was rather late in the day. The Amiga was starting to die off around then.

      A500 in 1987 and A1200 in 1993 for me.

  8. Valeyard

    Reflections

    Ah didn't realise it was reflections that did it, that would explain why there were posters of it all over the office

  9. AIBailey

    As a tech-demo, the first Beast was extremely impressive (for anyone interested in the technical details, point your browser at www.codetapper.com/amiga/sprite-tricks/shadow-of-the-beast/ ). David Whittaker's music was great, and added to the atmosphere immensively.

    My personal preference was SotB2 - there was something much more "other-world-ly" about starting on that landscape, and I still consider the soundtrack one of the Amiga's finest.

    The gameplay on both was pretty hardcore though. I only saw most of Beast2 via the infinite health cheat at the start, and even so you could still find yourself trapped without the correct item, or dying after two mistimed jumps by the waterfall.

    1. Chewi

      Exactly what I was going to say about Beast 2. I only saw it completed once while round at a friend's where we managed to do it with the help of the cheat and a magazine but I knew only too well how easy it was to screw it all up, especially at that damn waterfall! As for Beast 1, like many, I didn't get very far at all and rarely played it for that reason.

      The technological marvels of these games were somewhat lost on me at the time. Even though I'd started on an MSX and C64 (quite late in 1989!), at just 8 years old, I was really too young to fully appreciate how big a deal this was.

      I don't recall getting the t-shirt, probably because I got Beast 2 with the A500 Screen Gems pack. The pack come with a CDTV shirt though, which I still owned not all that long ago! Not sure what became of it in the end. I later acquired an actual CDTV and that's still in my parents' attic.

      If this new outfit truly wants to pay homage to the Amiga community then they should port it to OS4. It wouldn't be that big a leap beyond porting it to Linux, which is quite common these days. No OS4 for me though, the hardware is too expensive and despite my love for AmigaOS, you'd have to prise Linux from my cold dead fingers now.

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

        I could be convinced to part with a few quid for that CDTV. As for an OS for the remake, an OS4 port would do well, but as you say the hardware is rather pricey. I have both a Mac Mini and a PowerBook G4 running MorphOS which would be quite willing to take up the task.

    2. wdmot

      Sprite tricks

      Thanks AlBailey, that was a very interesting read!

  10. Cool Hand Luke
    Pint

    Fancy a drink?

    TEN PINTS

    1. FatAgnus

      Re: Fancy a drink?

      This one's for you Roger

  11. joeldillon

    'relinquish a little slice of justice'

    Eh?

  12. Ben Bonsall

    Had this on my lynx. (Still do, actually) The only time I completed the first level, the power brick smoked out, and being a skint kid I didn't have any batteries in... Annoyed me so much I went back to playing through Chip's Challenge again.

  13. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    GAH! Spoiler Alert!

    I'm still trying to finish the bloody thing & you go & spoil the ending!

    Just... one... more... try... at... the... waterfall...

    NOOOOOOooooo!

    *Sobs*

    *Restarts for the 19,369,246,735,273,666th time*

  14. LucreLout Silver badge

    Dangerous...

    One can only hope the extra development time points to Shadow of the Beast 4 being play-tested extensively.

    ...Rick Dangerous to be precise. IIRC, and with the passage of booze/lager I may not, but wasn't it the extensive play testing the led to RD being made continually more difficult, until it too was released with game play at the impossible end of the difficulty spectrum?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For such a "crap" game it sure made it to a lot of platforms.

    Pretty much all the consoles.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Probably for the reason as Flappy Bird, sheer human cussedness.

  16. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Happy

    The amiga!

    man brings back memories, started on the a500 then later got the A3000. Firstly the games, then the programming, and then I discovered these things called BBS's and they had these interesting pictures on them. Talk about frustrating waiting for a picture to download on a 14K modem.

    1. Glenn 1

      Re: The amiga!

      I also had an A500, and later an A3000, which I still have sitting in a corner. I don't happen to know where the keyboard, or mouse is. I ran a Commodore based BBS for 13 years starting in 1980 in the U.S. From around 1987 ( I don't remember exactly when I got my A500.) it was Amiga based. I ran a Fidonet BBS called Bermuda Triangle. On my A3000 at the time I had 2 SCSI drives totaling 600 megs which was huge at that time. I remember other sysops asking why I needed so much space. LOL.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: The amiga!

        This reminds me of how shear random factors can change the world.

        BT charged something like 10p a minute for a local call to a BBS in the UK. Crushingly expensive!

        Local calls in the USA were free. BBS calls could therefore also be free.

        And that, really, is why the USA dominants the Internet today - just that fact about the cost of having two machines warble at 14.4kbps across town was zero instead of extortion.

        I recall making a huge special trip to Evesham Micros to buy a 52Mb hdd and RAM expansion to 5Mb. :-)

        They thought I was a mad rockstar Elon Musk: "No way you'll ever fill that!", "Surely 20Mb would do?"

        :-D

        It was like going into a shop and asking for a petabyte of storage would be these days.

        Shortly later it was all compressed, & I had an old SCSI chain set up for more space, of course!

        Fond memories of school days.

  17. Shady
    Pint

    Amiga for work and study

    I started with a 500+, upon which I spent £200 upgrading from 1mb to 2mb of Chip RAM, then got a 1200. Probably spent as much on that thing as I have on all my PC's since. Upgraded it with a 420mb hard drive (for £300!) that required cutting the RF shield with tin snips, and an external 2x/2x CDR. Then came a 68030+68882 accelerator card, courtesy of Phase 5, with 4mb of EDO Ram. Then came a tower PC case with AT PSU, rewired and heavily modified by moi in the college workshops to mount the A1200 motherboard, with an adapter from Power Computing allowing me to use PC keyboards and mouse, along with a sparkly new 6x/2x/2x CDRW. Followed that with a 4 gig HD for another £500, and a 68060 accelerator. A few months later, I had a 68060 50mhz + PowerPC 603e 240mhz, 16 mb of EDO Ram, a 4mb Permedia 2 gfx card and a 19" "truly" flat CRT monitor (I forget the brand, it was still running serviceably until just a couple of years ago at a rellies house - it was spectacular), running at 1280 * 1024, which must've weighed 30kgs.

    When I told my mate how much I'd spent he absolutely pissed himself. "Can it play Quake?" he managed to utter between guffaws. It did - and played it faster and at a higher resolution than his early-adopter Pentium with 3DFX, which stopped him laughing cold.

    On a serious note, all my uni assignments were prepared using Wordworth (better and faster than MS Word, at the time) and I used Public Domain SPICE to simulate electronic networks - my mate couldn't get PD SPICE tools to run on his PC, couldn't afford the cost of buying them, and unusually, didn't know anyone hawking a hooky copy, so he had to use his allotted 60 minutes of computing lab time a week efficiently. I just didn't bother - my Amiga was faster and had a better monitor than anything the Uni had. I even invested in Storm C++ to learn programming so I had a half-decent IDE. I forget the publisher.

    Alas, the Accelerator managed to blow a fuse (or a resistor, or a capacitor) just short of starting my final year at Uni. Phase 5 had gone out of business and I couldn't find anyone willing to attempt a repair on exotic, unknown microelectronics, so I broke her for spares and with a heavy heart, built my furst PC - an AMD K5 with NVidia TNT gfx. One of the saddest days of my life, I still miss her now. My current Ivy Bridge i7 with 16gb, SSD and 6gig 970 might blow it out of the water computationally, but it still is not as responsive and fast-loading as my old Amiga. Sigh..... raise a pint for the old girl...

  18. dan1980
    FAIL

    I played this on the Mega Drive and let me just say: fuck this game.

    This was one of the hardest games I ever played. The whole thing seemed to be geared towards making you swear and throw your controller.

    BUT, the music was great and it kept me coming back - just to get halfway through the second level and throw away the controller in frustration again.

    Actually, this game probably resulted in me taking much-needed breaks from video-gaming in my youth - playing with the dog, reading a book, speaking to my family. All the stuff one normally uses games to avoid having to do.

    It was a very surreal game and, even after employing the much-lauded invincibility code, I have no idea what it was on about, what half the enemies or any of the bosses were, what the point was or how the weapons and items fit in.

    The best thing about that cheat was that it allowed me to be done with it once and for all. Mostly.

    There are games from that era that I remember fondly as being difficult but worth sticking at because with persistence and care you could win through and they were great fun, rarely feeling unfair. Most specifically, the Probotector (Contra: Hard Corps) and Streets of Rage 3, both of which were best two-player.

    With those (and several others) after we died, we would often fire it right back up for anther go. Shadow of the Beast was the opposite as you would turn off the whole system and storm off.

    That's the difference between a good hard game and something like this - do you feel that it is fair?

    1. dan1980

      Sorry - I have no idea how the 'FAIL' icon got on my post.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: No idea how the fall icon got on there

        You were thinking of the SotB play testers?

  19. 2Fat2Bald

    Yeah. Shadow Of The Beast hails from a lost era of video games. Back then I honestly think some video games designers thought that the game had to be mega-hard so it would take you ages to play thought it, to give it "lastability". Unfortunately this wasn't much fun, so you played it for a few minutes, maybe an hour, and stuck it in the drawer saying "well, I must try that again one day", never did and the rest is history. As are the developers responsible. They overlooked that fact that video games are supposed to be fun, not bloody hard work.

    It's a bit of a bette noir of mine. I don't want games that take weeks to play through because you spend AGES trying to work out what you're supposed to do, or trying to beat that near-impossible section. I want games that are spectacular, fun and make you feel like a total badass when you play them. Not those that have hours and hours of doing the same old crud over-and-over again until you fluke it, or wondering around lost in a virtual world trying to earn stumble across object X so you can do quest Y. I want to finish a game thinking "Wow - What a RIDE!"

    I have a life outside of gaming with friends and relatives and stuff. I can't dedicate a week to playing a game several hours a night. So I want games that you can play through in a few evenings of relatively casual play, that look spectacular and are pure fun. I don't care if it only lasts me a few evenings.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "As are the developers responsible. They overlooked that fact that video games are supposed to be fun, not bloody hard work."

      You have to consider the context. In the late 1980's, arcades were still alive and well, and what was one surefire way to get a determined gamer to divest his coinage? Make the damn thing hard. Even going into the late 90's there was a breed of gamer who lived on the challenge which was how the "Bullet Hell" shooter genre emerged.

  20. BuckoA51

    You missed the excellent C64 port, which made great use of the cartridge format which saw a brief revival towards the end of the machines commercial life. It also dialled back the difficulty a bit (not enough though). Easily the best 8-bit version I think.

  21. Dallas IT

    A clarification here (in reference to the title calling this a 16-bit game or computer). The Amiga had 16 bit data paths but 32-bit registers so technically it was a 32-bit computer as that is the specification that matters.

  22. Matthew Banwell

    The Amiga Years

    Nice-looking "Commodore: The Amiga Years" book on Kickstarter at the moment, currently heading for its second stretch goal.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1462758959/commodore-the-amiga-years-book

    Separate film coming too...

    http://www.frombedroomstobillions.com/

  23. knorth2
    Megaphone

    Other great Amiga software titles

    Before upgrading to the A2000, my first Amiga was the A1000 with the add-in RAM that brought the system up to 512K. It was clearly a machine that in 1985-86 was superior to the Macintosh and PC.

    I also owned PC-compatible computers because they were essential tools for the programming contracts I was doing.

    Because I had a foot in both worlds (Amiga and PC), a friend accepted that my claims of Amiga excellence were not simply from someone ignorant of the capabilities of PCs that cost about twice what an Amiga cost. He agreed to a chess challenge after he purchased a new PC AT-compatible machine, powered by the Intel 80286 chip.

    After I set up the Amiga, he remarked about the superiority of its graphics. Then we played five games of chess - Amiga 1000 vs 80286 PC AT. The software I ran was Chessmaster 2000 and he ran a well-known PC chess program that he'd bought after a careful evaluation of several programs. We alternated between the Amiga and PC playing white and black. The Chessmaster / Amiga combo won all five games.

    Clearly this wasn't a comparison of only the Amiga vs. PC computing power because third-party software was involved and we weren't running identical benchmarks. But it was a valid demonstration of the technical quality of the Amiga platform. That is one of my favorite memories because it silenced all local comments about the Amiga not being suitable for serious computing.

    Besides Chessmaster 2000, I also have fond memories of Electronics Arts' Instant Music and mouse jamming, seen in this YouTube video:

    https://youtu.be/ImjafgBlew0

  24. DaneB

    Amiga love

    Had a feeling the comments section would be full of Amiga love... but this is quite astounding!

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