Shadow Man Remastered Review – Stay in the Shadows, Man

    Title: Shadow Man Remastered
    Developer: Nightdive Studios, Acclaim Studios Teeside
    Release Date: April 15, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Nightdive Studios
    Genre: Adventure

Nightdive Studios is known for obtaining rights to abandonware retro titles such as Turok and Doom 64 to port them to modern platforms. Now, the studio has returned to the classic occult game Shadow Man: Remastered to revive this strange series.

The Shadow Man series began in 1992 Under the banner of Valiant Comics. Comic legends such as Joe Quesada, Rob Liefied, and Frank Miller have all had their hands on this series. After several years of immense popularity and over five million copies sold. Acclaim stepped in and purchased Valiant for $65 million. Paving the way for the original Shadow Man to be released as a video game in 1999.

Released for N64, Playstation, and Dreamcast, Shadow Man had everything in the right places to be a massive hit. Based on deep lore and stories from the comic books and a dark occult atmosphere that was tough to find in some adventure games at the time. Plus, there’s was a slew of hype and positive reviews upon its release. Shadow Man seemed to be a sure-fire hit.

When I finally got my hands on Shadow Man I was disappointed, after finishing Tomb Raider, Legacy of Kain, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater around that same time. I couldn’t give Shadow Man the attention it needed. The gameplay felt stiff compared to these other titles. Further, the story was too complex for my hormone-raging adolescent mind. My N64 cartridge of Shadow Man found itself sitting on a bookshelf collecting dust.

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Now, 22 years later, I find myself confronting my poor choices and finally giving Shadowman the time it’s deserved. Shadow Man: Remastered aims to revive this title as the occult masterpiece it was meant to be but had there been a physical release, I feel it would have ended up in the spot as my old copy.

The first thing I noticed in this remastered version is the visuals. Gone are the cloudy, blurry textureless graphics replaced with highly detailed backgrounds and beautiful lighting. But a fresh coat of paint can’t hide the problems underneath. This game still looks like a relic straight out of the 90s. Sharp and angular polygons make the protagonist, Michael Leroi, appear stiff and robotic, a cardboard box with a mouth.

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You begin this adventure in what could be a swamp. Here you get a background of Michael through his own internal monologue. His family is dead, he’s unable to die, and he’s able to visit a place called the Deadside.

A self-proclaimed “asshole of the universe” here, you also get your first direction when Michael says, “Where is that church anyways?” When you finally find the church, you are greeted by no less than 10 rottweiler dogs who chase you around but don’t bite. And upon entering the church, you can talk with Nettie, a Voodoo Princess who gives you a teddy bear from your dead brother to access the Deadside and tells you to find Govi, vessels that contain dark soul power-ups to beat some bad guy.

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Shadow Man: Remastered is mostly convoluted and often confusing in its direction if you haven’t realized it. Still, the game is elegantly written. Most of the in-game conversations sound like refined and artistic lyrics pulled from some ancient grimoire. Michael describes one of the places he visits as “untamed and unnatural afterbirth,” which I must admit, in 1999 sored swiftly over my head.

At first, the gameplay feels more optimize in this updated version, but that effect wears off quickly. As you navigate through a labyrinth of hellishly oversimplified environments, you can slowly shoot undead demons in the Deadside. After around five shots which seem to last an eternity, the demons finally explode into chunks of red gore. The act of fighting seems to slow the gameplay down to an agonizing pace. I found myself back in my basement in 1999, wondering if I had any other games I could play.

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Shadow Man: Remastered is an alluring and eccentric game, especially for the time it was released. But it’s a cadaver of the late 90s. A timepiece that shows its age. Its dark, poetic writing is beautiful and entertaining but can also be ambiguous and misleading.

To truly do this game justice, mechanics needed to be updated to make the overall experience more enjoyable. Faster pace and more fluid gun gameplay could bring new audiences. The game should be played by anyone who has never experienced the series and are interested enough to visit the Deadside themselves. I’m sure longtime fans will feel that nostalgic love, playing this occult hit exactly as it was published two decades ago but personally, I feel it could have been left on the shelf.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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