The header image for this post is based on the original Shadow Man box art, the original version is available here
Remember in the previous part, how I teased a little about the music then left you to stew in the creepiness?
you don’t? Well you’re in luck, you can read it by clicking here
This week I’m going to go into the music and how Shadow Man’s controls work and feel. But first, just to get you back into the swing of things, here’s the music for the Playrooms again.
I’d suggest headphones for the full effect
A quick reminder about the game I’m waffling on about
Shadow Man was an Nintendo 64 game developed by Acclaim Teeside (a UK subsidiary of now defunct Acclaim Entertainment) and published by Acclaim Entertainment in 1999. It was later ported to Windows, PlayStation, and Dreamcast in 1999 and to MacOS in 2013. It is based on a dark comic book series with the same name, which was published by Valiant Comics.
The soundtrack for this game was composed, arranged and performed by award winning composer and Video Game Audio Director Tim Haywood.
I know very little about music theory and how it’s genre’s are neatly defined, so I’m about to embarrass myself here.
It’s a combination of African percussive beats, baroque-esque choral pieces, creepy soundscapes, back masked samples, ambient electronica, and industrial.
See? I told you that I was about to embarrass myself
So diverse is it in fact, that there are several different versions of the soundtrack. The two official versions which come with the GoG.com release are impressive; there was a third version
which is more of a telling of the story rather than just the music; as there are patches of dialogue thrown in over the music
was released by Tim Haywood on Facebook a few years back; and there are a further four “versions” on Tim’s official band camp page.
of the versions on Tim’s BandCamp, I would recommend ‘Shadow Man - The Complete Works’ as it’s a HD remaster with some bonus content not included in any of the other releases.
The music itself has it’s own atmosphere and manages to tell the story of Shadow Man without actually using any of the crucial dialogue from the game. I’d recommend at least finishing the game before you tackle the soundtrack on it’s own, and I would definitely recommend headphones and a free 90-120 minutes so that you can take it all in.
I like to think of The Complete Works as a sort of concept album; and we all know that concept albums need 100% of your attention when you listen to them.
I’ll add a player for The Complete Works (which you can stream in it’s entirety for free) here. That way, you don’t have to go anywhere.
seriously, it’s that good. This isn’t a shill, listen to it for free for all I care - just listen to it.
Regardless of the version of this game that you play, it’s obvious from the outset that this game was designed to be played on an N64. Moving Shadow Man/Michael LeRoi around requires the analogue stick of an N64 or Dreamcast controller. Moving him around on the PlayStation is difficult, but doable; and moving him around on the PC or Mac (without the use of an Xbox One or PS4 controller) is a pain in the butt.
Performing actions is where you can really tell that this game was designed for the N64, though. Most of Mike’s main actions map to one of the C buttons on the N64 controller. Jumping is C-Up (Y on the Dreamcast and Triangle on the PlayStation); Interacting with his environment is C-Down (A on the Dreamcast and X on the PlayStation); and his weapons are used with either the C-Left or C-Right buttons (for each hand, respectively).
Manual, first person, aiming can be tricky
at least, it always has been for me. Then again, I suck at FPS stuff on consoles.
but luckily you don’t have to do it too often. The game supplies a lock-on feature: olding the L trigger (on Dreamcast, Z on N64) forces Mike to lock-on to the nearest enemy, allowing you to blast away at it, while strafing around it.
the enemy selection code is a little buggy, though. As such, you might end up circling an enemy on the other side of the area you’re in.
The camera can be manoeuvred around to show as much of the environment around Mike/Shadow Man as possible. It feels a little like the camera system from Super Mario 64.
didn’t expect to have that comparison, eh?
Unlike Super Mario 64, the camera is manipulated by using D-Pad on the N64 (or Left trigger and using the D-Pad on the Dreamcast). This can really help with finding hidden platforms, or just to take in the entire vista.
Wasn’t There A Sequel?
There was, for PS2, and we don’t really talk about it much.
It’s not that it was bad. It’s just that Acclaim Teeside seemed to have taken everything that was amazing about the first game, wrapped it in news paper, sealed it in concrete, travelled with it to London, and chucked it into the Thames.
a little hyperbolic, I’m sure.
Maybe one of these days I’ll play through the sequel, collect more eloquent thoughts on it, and form them into a blog post.
Would I Recommend Shadow Man?
Firstly, this isn’t a review.
I’m going to avoid reviewing games here, because I’ll only ever end up writing about my favourite games; they’ll only ever get 90%+ ratings from me, and I’m bound to upset someone.
I’m not going to give Shadow Man a score, or even try to convince someone to go out and buy it.
Shadow Man is an intensely dark game, with some very adult content, and unsettling scenes in it. All that being said, I love this game. I don’t know what exactly it is about this game, but I come back to it every so often and re-play it.
when I have the time
I’m not entirely sure what it says about me that I love this game, but I really do. From the down-right silliness of the Disco Mode (an unlock-able mode which replaces all music in the game with the disco background music of one of the serial killers, while simultaneously giving Mike/Shadow Man a multicoloured aura straight out of a 70’s dance floor), to the incredibly dark Playrooms. There’s just something about it that I love.
Although the GoG.com release comes with an impressive array of extras and supports being played at 1080p, the definitive version of Shadow Man will always be the Dreamcast version
for me, at least
If you like dark games, with a lot of exploration, backtracking and story to sit through, I would recommend giving Shadow Man a shot. Sit through the first 3 hours of the game, taking the time to read the in-game lore too, and I’m sure it’ll reach out and grab you.
Have you ever played Shadow Man? What did you think of it? Which format(s) have you played it on? Did the Playrooms creep you out, too? Did you manage to collect all of the Dark Souls and see what was behind the only door which requires a level 10 Shadow Meter?
If you didn’t play it, would you be willing to give it a go now?