Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and Uninvited are finally available in one comprehensive package for modern consoles. If you have no idea what those games are then don't worry, I'll fill you in on the details.
Before I begin this review, I should describe what this nostalgia-filled compilation is all about. Basically, now defunct ICOM Simulations created three point and click adventure games that were originally released on computer but later remade for NES. All three of these lovingly crafted 8-bit tales are included here. As a personal note, I absolutely loved playing Déjà Vu as a kid and have fond memories of Uninvited as well although I've never played Shadowgate. Anyway, I'll get into the specific games later but for now, allow me to review the package as a whole.
It goes without saying that if you grew up with games like these then this is undoubtedly an exciting release that you should purchase immediately. Each of these games is rather obscure although they certainly have a dedicated fan base. One thing that surprised me after playing through all three games over the past few days is just how diverse the narratives are. Shadowgate is a dark fantasy, Déjà Vu is a detective thriller, and Uninvited is a horror game with a decent amount of humour. Another aspect that I appreciated is the trophies / achievements. I don't usually care about these sorts of superficial things but the requirements to obtain them are extremely unique and force you to constantly think outside the box and die in clever ways. For the record, I managed to unlock all of them and had a lot of fun doing so.
On the other hand, modern gamers will find trying to progress through these adventures to be a tedious and frustrating experience. You'll die a lot and the difficulty relies more on your ability to memorize how not to bite the dust than on your puzzle-solving skills. For example, simply moving past the police station in Déjà Vu will make you fall into a construction site and die. Additionally, the interface where you interact with the map and your inventory is extremely cumbersome. Flipping through pages of found objects while trying different combinations of items and opening doors that you can't even see will test the patience of even long-time fans.
It's your job as a brave warrior to infiltrate Castle Shadowgate and defeat its sinister Warlock Lord before he summons the unstoppable beast Behemoth. Shadowgate's gameplay has a unique dynamic in that you must keep gathering and lighting torches as you progress. If you have no lit torches left, you'll simply die in the dark. Anyway, the puzzles can be pretty obscure but I enjoyed the dungeon setting, fantasy creatures, and challenge of having to always have a lit torch on hand. There's a pretty epic final scene, too, that makes all of your effort worthwhile. Overall, I may have missed this game in my childhood but I'm glad that I finally got to play through it here.
You play as Chicago detective Ace Harding in 1941 who wakes up with amnesia in a public bathroom. It's your job to piece together your situation and prove your innocence after being framed for a heinous crime. The puzzles here are more straightforward than in Shadowgate as it features a more realistic game world. That being said, even though I remember being obsessed with Déjà Vu as a kid, one aspect that can be brutally tough is actually completing the game. You must hide evidence against you and acquire evidence that proves your innocence then go to the police station. Figuring out the exact combination of what you need and what you should discard is a laborious process, especially considering you could have missed one little note in some remote part of the city. It may be annoying but the overall campaign is full of memorable scenes and enjoyable situations that more than make up for its frustrating final moments.
Uninvited is definitely the weirdest and possibly the best game in this collection. It starts with you waking up in a car crash and realising that your sister is missing. So, you head inside a nearby creepy mansion and the door locks behind you. The goal is to find your sister then escape the mansion and the journey to reach that goal is full of unforgettable moments as you progress and slowly unravel the mansion's history. There are some irritating parts like how picking up a ruby makes you die after a while by merely having it in your possession but the otherwise enjoyable campaign really stands out. Whether you find yourself in a zombie-filled maze or about to drown in a bathroom that's rapidly filling with water, you're bound to fondly think back on this adventure for years to come.
The fact that 8-bit Adventure Anthology: Volume 1 includes every ICOM Simulations game released for NES makes you wonder what titles Volume 2 will feature. In any case, I'm sure it'll be as memorable as this compilation of nostalgia-filled old-school adventures is.
- + Contains three obscure adventures that'll more than delight old-school gamers
- + Each game has a very different narrative
- + Innovative trophies / achievements
- - Modern gamers will find playing these pieces of nostalgia far too frustrating
- - Menus and maps can be cumbersome
- - Finishing Déjà Vu is incredibly laborious