When I was a
kid, there were a lot of weekends that were totally squandered indoors
thanks to video game rentals. Not like today, where I try to squander
every waking hour on video games, but let's not get distracted. Usually,
the two-day rental period that most places maintained was a long enough
time to sort through any game you could rent, but occasionally, there
would be a game that would just confound you for 48 hours straight. For
me, it was Shadow of the Beast II.
For those of
you unfamiliar with the series, it was an odd sort of fantasy
adventure-type platform game originally for the Amiga, and it was
subsequently ported to a number of other systems. You play a guy named
Aarbron, although they didn't bother to name the character until the third
game was released, who recently realized that he was once a man, but was
turned into a beast and enslaved by the evil sorcerer, Maletoth. So, you
take the fight to him and in the process, win a little bit of your
humanity back, and that leads to the second game. You're a little more
human, but now, Maletoth's evil crony, Zelek, has kidnapped your infant
sister, and you've got to get her back, and maybe finish what you started.
Perhaps the reason he couldn't finish what he started was because the
games were insanely difficult. Your health was in short supply, and you
were constantly beset by fast, difficult-to-hit enemies that would drain
your health to nothing, and when you died, you had to start the whole damn
game over again. Better still, the second game introduced quest elements
that, if not collected or performed in the right order, would leave you
completely stuck, unable to move forward at all in the game.
That's why I decided to revisit this game now, and to bring you along for
the ride. Join me, and enjoy the game as I enjoyed thinking about playing
it again, but then not so much playing the actual game. Let's begin:
Ok, I just
started. Not dead yet, but that could change at any moment. I vaguely
remember that you had to do the stuff to the left before the stuff to the
right, so let's do that first.
of those dangerous tree limbs! Ahahaha! Ah, good times. Seriously, though,
they're throwing grenades at me. Lemme just slip from tree to tree while
they're reloading and I should be fine.
some huge piranha. Or sharks, it's hard to say which. It looks like
there's a little gap in between their leaping, so I'll just slip in
Ok, it wasn't as great a gap as I thought it was, but I'm only a little
hurt. I can make it.
What ho! A
tubby green gargoyle kidnapping some guy. I'll save you buddy!
Sorry, buddy. Damn, I needed to save him for a later puzzle. Looks like
I'll have to start over.
that's more like it. Hmm, Ishram, Barloom, and an "upper switch"? It all
makes perfect sense. I'm sure you can show yourself out. I've got to
figure out who these people are.
banana head bugs are endless in number. Time to beat a hasty retreat.
Oh shoot, I
grabbed the rope, but then I pressed down AND right at the same time, and
fell right off the rope for some reason into the acid pit. I hate when
that happens. Well, lucky for me it's still early in the game, so I don't
have too far to go once I restart.
Ok, that ledge at the bottom of the rope is where I need to go.
These giant half-naked men are no match for me. There's something vaguely
homoerotic about this whole scene. I can't quite put my finger on it.
Whatever it was, I got their chest full of gold coins, and access to their
Geez, fancy signage. Oh, but I see that the innkeeper is just painted on
the wall. No worries, I'll just take a jug of... something, for my
Back up the rope now...
Lousy cheap hittin' gargoyles barreling into you. Screw him, I've got
bigger fish to fry.
Take ol' Wally for example. He's got an innovative strategy of pushing a
spiked wall into you. Too bad for him my giant spiked yoyo can reach just
far enough to hit him. And can pass through walls. So he's dead now.
More spikes, this time from the ceiling. At least I can break these,
possibly because there isn't a naked hairless green guy pushing them.
Argh, goddamn those cheap bastards and... well the joke's on him because I
killed him and that never-ending avalanche of spiked columns.
I see. This must be the factory where they manufacture all these spiked
slabs. And there's the gargoyle foreman:
Yeah, you better run. Meanwhile, I'll be sneaking into the locked... area
Aw, come on. Another cheap shot with spiked slab? Get some new material,
man. Alright, that hurt, but I can still keep going.
An elevator, and two switches: an upper and a lower one. Hmm...
Oh shit, that's right. The wimpy fellow from the beginning was telling me
about that. Now that I'm dead, I can go visit him again.
Back on track again. Need to hit a lever and make some stuff move around.
Thankfully, that letter is right around the corner. Or should I say, right
around the cliff.
No I shouldn't, because that's a stupid thing to say. This gargoyle hasn't
seen me yet, and I'll bet I can sneak in and flip all kinds of levers.
Things are going well so far. Although what about that... uh oh.
Good lord, he released his giant pug! Argh!! And I had a good streak
Now that I'm caught up once more, I can get this other elevator working.
I've only got one shot at this, so I've got to make sure I get that rock
broken into a more manageable piece, get it onto the seesaw, jump on the
seesaw, and then scramble onto the elevator before the rock comes back
down. I bet this goes off without a hitch.
Look, the point is I made it to the top. I didn't say specifically that I
would make it up there on the first try. Can we just forget about it?
So Ishram is a dragon, eh? And a dragon that can maintain its balance
while clutching an orb with its front claws, no less. Whatever, man.
You've obviously never dealt with a yoyo-wielding caveman before. Now
gimme that swag!
Oh, another errand to run? Thank you so much. Don't you know I'm trying to
kill an evil wizard, here? Give me some money, or a better yoyo, or some
clothes. You know what, forget it. I'll go talk to your master about this
What the? What happened to the rope? I didn't cut... Oh, you've got to be
kidding me. It was that damned cheap-shot gargoyle from when I was
fighting Wally! Sonnuva... *reset*
Aha, there you are, you sneaky little monkey. Not this time.
Finally back. Now there's talk of a new weapon? Looks like I may finally
get that new yoyo I was hoping for provided I can get to this hereto forth
unseen old man. Time to get back to the start and go right this time.
A bit of good luck, though, is that they got rid of all those goons on the
return route. Except for the tree arms. Those things are unstoppable.
Speaking of stoppage...
More loincloths? Then let the battle begin!
They're not so tough.
Ooh, spoke too soon. If only I were small enough to ride on one of those.
Something homoerotic about all this, too. I can feel it. I mean, I am
feeling it, but I'm not going to feel "it". That makes it harder to type.
Slime from the sky? Is this some sort of artsy money shot to wrap up all
the action in the last scene, or is it all just the work of a mucous man
with a cannon for an arm?
Ah, so it was the latter. Still, he's no match for the old back-and-forth
with the yoyo. And he gave me a little hand axe? Score! That was fun, but
where to now?
Oh, that's right. The tiny little bridge of slime that you have to hop up
and down on a few times until it breaks. How could I overlook something so
obvious? Boy is my face red. Anyway...
This looks pretty straightforward. Jump over the acid pools, dodge the
falling drops of blue goo, no problemo.
Huh. I was definitely not expecting to be impaled by pneumatic blue
crystal. Nope, furthest thing from my mind. At least the worst of it is
Hoho, a sleeping goblin, eh? Think I'll take out my frustrations over
slime artillery and cherry-picking crystals out on him. C'mere, you!
Ah, crap. Probably needed to kill that guy early, or get his compatriots
up top, or use the hand axe to get ten seconds of unlimited throwing axes
and kill the scout and the drawbridge guy quickly before I get stuck on
the other side of the bridge or in the acid pit below. Them's the breaks,
A while later...
Man, that was tiresome. Now there's something about spikes?
Ok, ten seconds to go through wherever it is I'm going and do whatever it
is I'm supposed to do. There's a lever down here, I guess I hit it and run
back. No problem.
Dammit. So close.
A while later...
Ugh. I can't wait for the next huge setback.
A goblin mess hall? And a key in the corner? Les' partay!
Yes, that's it. All in a line, you guys. I'm unstoppable!
Dang. I guess jail's a nice change of pace from being killed or being
placed in a kind of metaphorical "jail" after messing up some minor
action. Yeah, let's go with that. I see they didn't bother to search me
for my possessions. Let's bust this door down.
Ouch. Ok, plan B: offer the guard the jug I got from the inn. Sure, this
would be the first time that the "offer" feature was used, but I'll bet
this is the time:
Sheesh, goblins have a quick metabolism. Coupled with a tiny brain capable
only of building complex traps, but not large enough to realize the
importance of searching prisoners, it's hard to imagine their species
getting out of the hole they're literally in.
Alright, my jail buddy and I are making our escape! Things are really
Ah, god... I needed that little bugger. Fuck you, rock-throwing goblin,
A while later...
Alright, broke free, killed two goblins, got that little guy up there
safe, and now I'm freeing his buddy in the other cell. And that ring? Got
that already. There could've been more of those cheap bastards up top, and
I wasn't in the mood to go back through yet again because pokey prisoner
#2 got smacked in the head with a rock.
Ok, guys, I've got the key. It's time for a jailbreak!
Ooh, sorry guys. It's for a good cause, I swear!
Ok, I'm done with those damned goblins. Now I gotta get out of here, get
that scroll, and forge ahead.
Check. Now forward, through the river.
Look, it's the Kraken from Clash of the Titans! Thank goodness he doesn't
have any dangerous attacks. Or a body. With him out of the picture, it's
just a matter of hopping onto the next stone and crossing the river.
Oh, dick move, guys. Well, I eventually crossed the river, though not in
the way I thought I would.
Good lord, it's some kind of giant ant-man! With a knife! And what's
worse, he's nude!!! I just started running. Thank god his ant carapace was
too heavy for him to cross the bridge behind me safely. I could feel
another "game over" coming on. Think I'll start using the emulator's "save
state" feature just to be on the safe side. Or should I say, the "save"
side? Oh god, kill me now.
I finally found you, old man. I've got a ring and a scroll for you, and
you've got my mmmmagic.
... crappy little rings. This stuff is going to kill that evil wizard and
make my guy a little less primitive-looking. Sure, why not? Anyway, let's
see about getting that sea-crossing horn from the river. I'll just take
the path that ant-man opened for me. I think he can swim. I mean, he's not
wearing anything that might weigh him down, so he should be fine.
... Yep, it's an underwater utopia. Huge mushrooms, swarms of tiny bats,
more vines that you have to EXTRA careful not to press two directions at
once on, lest you plummet into the acid below, it's just like the bed of
the Mississippi, right up to the giant snail:
Well, I got what I came for. I suppose getting extorted by a giant snail
isn't the worst thing that's happened to me in this damned game. Wait...
do I have 16 coins? I know I've been picking them up from every chest I
came across, but there's no coin counter anywhere, and I've restarted so
many times I don't remember how many that was. Magic snail?
Oh thank god. Anyway, where was I?
Ah, this is new. More Chippendales dancers. How does a civilization that
created a factory for spiked slabs and electrified prison cells somehow
miss the bus when it came to inventing pants? Maybe it's because the men
are as tall as redwoods. Maybe the women were the only ones who knew how
to sew, and took the knowledge with them when the fled the planet via
spaceship. Outlandish? I think not.
Past those two ninnies is what I can only describe as a vast expanse of
moss populated by exploding frog-chimps. There's a giant snake too, but
that is in no way intended to be a double entenuendo, comprendamentiendo?
I finally made it to the edge of the waist-deep relish field and found
another body of water. You've already seen what happens when I try to
swim, and I don't think I have the coinage for another trip to Neverland,
so let's give the old horn a toot.
Fantastic. He didn't even bite my head off, or buck me off his back right
in the middle of the lake, or swim through piranha-infested waters, or any
other stupid thing that might lead to my death. We just calmly rode across
to the other side, and that was that. How odd.
Well what do you know? Whoever owns the castle must be have a great
groundskeeper. They got the... whatever it is I'm walking on, to be much
greener on this side of the pond. I'll have to commend them, after the
magical bloodbath! It's time to finally take it to the man, in this case,
the evil wizard-guy, Zelek. I've busted more than my fair share of humps
to get here, and I've got a saved state with your name on it, pal. You
wanna ring the bell?
Ah crap, he nailed me with a bunch of those fireballs.
Shoot, I accidentally jumped forward a little and got totally wasted by
touching his nasty robes. At least someone around here covers up once and
Dammit all! He rushed forward and got me with his staff's rocket engine.
Ok, that time, I thought I saw something on the back of his robe, but it
was really nothing. Damn.
Ok, suffice to say, it took a few tries. Let's just fast forward until I
finally got the bastard:
Oh, so his head was really your sister this whole time. Of course! It's
the perfect hiding place! And now that he's dead, all that's left to do is
defeat that slippery goon, Maletoth. Correction, all that's left to do is
buy an Amiga so you can get a taste of the third and final game in the
series. People had enough of the hair-pulling difficulty by the end of
this one, and so they never ported it. I hear good things about it,
though. I hear Aarbron actually wears clothes in that one, including a
jaunty little adventurer's hat! Don't worry, though, I'm sure there are
still plenty of half-naked men tucked away in some secret level.