Twenty-six years distant from the Commodore Amiga original, I dove into this remake unsure of what to expect. I soon found out. A knight – all silver and radiant – rushes my demonic character with sword in hand. I hit a button and the Beast responds by spinning around and tearing her head off with all the grace of a bloodthirsty ballerina. As the knight’s head rolls across an otherwise pristine field, I realize this game is unapologetically mean.
I hesitate to call Shadow of the Beast a 2D brawler because it’s not a mindless button masher (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In fact, button mashing will just get you killed. Instead, this is more like a hyper-violent, 2D version of the Batman: Arkham series. Enemies rush you from the left and right, and you must carefully time each strike, counter, or block to beat them back. The game awards you for precise timing, and you’re given a graded score at the end of each encounter.
But unlike in Arkham, enemies here aren’t so… polite, meaning they won’t wait patiently for you to finish any attack. Fighting off larger groups isn’t as simple as countering every strike. You may need to stun one person and toss them into another so you can execute the third person running up behind you uninhibited. Once you get the hang of making these split-second decisions, your Beast is able to flow through enemies and dispatch them with unbroken brutality.
The gore left in your wake is in stark contrast to an otherwise pristine landscape. Shadow of the Beast has a very Grimm’s Fairy Tales aesthetic. The twisted roots of trees, intricate castle designs, and an extremely bright color palette give the game a fantastical, storybook feel.
As for the Beast itself, its motives are unclear. In the classic Amiga game, the Beast was a man named Aarbron, who was kidnapped and corrupted by a demonic warlock into the bloodthirsty beast. Eventually, he rebels against his would-be captor and embarks on a quest of revenge. And that was basically what I played through during my demo. There was no voice acting, no written dialogue; the entire narrative was conveyed solely through character expressions and actions. Combined with a minimal tutorial, Shadow of the Beast was very easy to dive into and start having fun.
Shadow of the Beast will be released exclusively for the PlayStation 4 sometime in 2016. Be sure to check back all this weekend as our ongoing PlayStation Experience 2015 coverage continues.
Unlike Arkham, enemies here aren’t so… polite, meaning they won’t wait patiently for you to finish any attack.