Vault is announcing a remaster of one of the most curious, disturbing, and peculiar games to ever have come out of their line of comics: Shadow Man.
The game was originally published in 1999 by the long defunct Acclaim Entertainment, of Turok and NBA JAM fame. It was released for Nintendo 64, Playstation, Windows, and Dreamcast.
The new remaster will be handled by Nightdive Studios, who has already worked on an updated version of the game for PC in 2014, and is planning a release for PS4, Xbox, Switch, and PC via the Steam and GOG platforms.
There’s somewhat of a consensus on which consoles had the best version of the game. The Dreamcast and N64 consoles received the most favorable reviews for feeling the most polished, with the PC and Playstation versions getting called out for its technical issues.
What’s interesting here is that the review scores for the game varied widely, with some loving Shadowman’s jump from comic to video game, especially in terms of capturing the tone and darkness of the series, and others lamenting the game’s confusing structure and dodgy combat. The game did feel like it was made with a mouse and keyboard in mind, but some still maintained the game fit well in retrospect.
Shadow Man’s story is loosely based on Garth Ennis’ and Ashley Woods´ Shadowman V2 run, published in 1997. A gambler called Michael LeRoi becomes Shadowman as he gets rescued by a Voodoo priestess that knits the Mask of Shadows to his chest. LeRoi is then tasked with stopping a terrible alliance of evil in the form of Jack the Ripper and a superior villain called Legion. The setting and the overall narrative environment of the game is all Voodoo (of the New Orleans variety). The story is heavy in lore and likes to take its time building up Legion’s and Jack the Ripper’s sinister machinations.
Game designers Guy Miller and Simon Phipps took on storytelling responsibilities for the game and even voiced its main villains, Miller taking on Legion with Phipps playing Jack the Ripper.
I’m old enough to have played Shadow Man when it came out and have some pretty good memories of it. The design is pure 90’s horror with grotesque leather-clad monsters roaming the Deadside (Shadowman’s realm of the undead), a talking snake with an Irish accent (complete with top hat) as one of your allies, bloodstained hell prisons decorating the landscape, and more references to the band The Doors than you can count.
I for one enjoyed the puzzle/action gameplay mix. It could get overwhelming due to some clunky controls (not everything played like a first person shooter back then), but the action sequences were always a fun spectacle of magic orbs, light platforming, and tortured soul ready for the killing. Shadow Man carried a formidable arsenal of real-life weapons and Deadside spells that kept things from getting repetitive and the player was always incentivized to find that new ability that let Shadow Man super charge shots or touch fire without losing health.
I remember the game having a very lived-in feel to it as well. The Deadside had an ancient magic vibe to it and the things inhabiting it carried a raw sense of suffering and pain that stuck to their bodies. It helped that the game had great lighting and shadow effects for the time. It all amounted to a very immersive experience.
I do remember struggling a bit with some of the combat and it could be somewhat unclear, in part, as to what to do after completing certain tasks. Its game world, though, was the star of the game and I’m eager to see how Nightdive Studios will make it shine in current gen consoles.
Shadow Man is slated for release next year and will include previously cut material from the original game.