Shadow of the Beast 2 logo

Publisher: Psygnosis Price: £34.95

SHADOW of the Beast II is very similar to its highly acclaimed predecessor. However, Psygnosis have listened to the comments made about the first game and improved upon them for this, the second instalment of the Beast saga.

Having fought your way across the plains, you managed to reach the killer of your father, the Beast Mage, Zelek. A long and arduous battle ensued and as the sun set in the east only one shadowy figure remained standing. Against all odds you had defeated the powerful wizard and avenged the death of your once proud father.

As time passed, people moved to the furthest reaches of the land in search of a more bountiful life. What with the Mage long since deceased the peasants slept safely in their beds, or so they thought.

One terrible night, high on mountain top, the silhouette of a lone figure could be made out against the dark night sky. As rain poured out the sky and lightning flashed all around the strange figure raised a staff causing weird electrical currents to run all over his body The figure turned and twisted until it had become a hideous winged creature. Gliding effortlessly down the mountain, the creature swooped over a lonesome cottage ripping off the roof as though it were made of straw.

Inside a baby screamed as its mother looked upwards. A menacingly huge hand reached in and grasped the babe. The creature took off into the distance, leaving the poor woman all alone in the darkness.

So it was that the Beast Mage returned, taking your only son in the process. There was no question what you must do, even without your Beast powers you must travel to the Kara-Moon, defeat the Mage and rescue your heir.

Beast II looks quite similar to its predecessor. That is, it takes the guise of a platform-style game come beat' em up. The two main differences between the two Beast games are that this second instalment is much bigger and it requires far more lateral thinking and puzzle solving. Players may now collect coins to spend on needy provisions. Clues can be gleaned by asking the inhabitants of Kara-Moon probing questions. You may even barter objects in return for information and help.

One thing that hasn't changed is the Beast-ly T-shit found accompanying the disks.


Shadow of the Beast 2 logo

PSYGNOSIS £34.95 * Joystick and Keyboard

In the strange and distant land of Kara-Moon, the lightning of a fierce storm crackles around a tall, forbidding tower. Within the tower, Zelek the Beast Mage is reflecting his position.

After Zelek's defeat by the warrior messenger, Maletoth the Beast Lord expressed bitter disappointment and ordered Zeleth to find another child suitable to be turned into a new warrior messenger. So far the search has been fruitless, but on this dark, stormy night one of his cowering minions enters the tower and tells the Beast Mage that a suitable girl-child has been found. Without further ado, Zelek hurls himself through the window in the night, transforming into his bestial form of a large, fearsome bird, and sets off to find the child.

Eventually he arrives at a high ridge above a small cottage, where the sound of a baby crying can clearly be heard. Slowly, realisation of where he is creeps into Zelek's brain. This was the home of the previous warrior messenger - so the child must be his sister! At last, a chance for revenge. Zelek holds aloft his staff, catching streams of electricity from the storm, and once more shifts into his beast form, to swoop down and take the child to his tower.

You, of course, are the previous warrior messenger, returned to human form after defeating Zelek and escaping from the Beast Lord. You must fight your way through the realm of Kara-Moon, braving the dangers of vicious monsters, deadly warriors and perilous terrain. You begin armed with a limited supply of life potion, which you drink whenever you take a hit, and a ball and chain. Additional weapons can be found on your quest, however, along with extra vials of energy potion to top up your flagging supply.

By no means all of the creatures you come across are intent on your destruction, although a large creature lunging towards you with a giant axe isn't likely to buy you a pint and a packet of peanuts. Some creatures can be conversed with to uncover clues or gain equipment to help you on your quest. Certain replies to questions that you might ask give hints to to the next question, thus building conversations. Some of these little chats will lead to extra quests, whereas others will tell you where vital clues can be found.

It is up to you to save your young sister from the clutches of the evil Beast Lord and so spare her the agony that you have already been though.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Anyone who has played the original Shadow of the Beast knows what to expect from Beast II. The sound is very much in the same vein as the first in the series, with mournful panpipes playing over a sombre orchestral backing. The new Game Over screen contains a new piece of music with an incredibly effective wailing guitar solo, which is very reminiscent of Hendrix (Albert Hendrix from Cleethorpes, that is. No, only joking!)

The graphics lack the multi-level parallax scrolling from Beast I, but the use of animation, colour and shading means that the overall appearance is more atmospheric. Each different type of enemy appears in its own surroundings, so there isn't so much of slapdash feel to the positioning of monsters. For example the pygmies are in the forest, the water drips are in the caves and the giant fish are in the river. All in all, the loss of technical wizardry in the presentation is more than made up for in feel and atmosphere.

LASTING INTEREST

Fright from the start the game is incredibly tough: having only one life isn't really conducive to lengthy quests! With time it does become possible to battle through... once you've spent quite a few games learning the positions of the monsters.

Having said that, it will still take some considerable time before the final objective is reached. Just too late you realise what you should have done at a particular point and find yourself bashing the button to start a new game!

JUDGEMENT

Most people's anxieties about how much gameplay Beast II would have can be assuaged by the promise that there is quite a bit more! The regimental lines of enemies have gone, giving the game a much more frantic and random feel. So instead of sitting in the same place, picking off the nasties as they advance towards you (very boring), you have to be sharp enough to battle attack from every angle.

The game has a lot more depth than the original, with a series of mini-puzzles to complete along the way before the necessary clues are available to you. It still has a few annoying quirks, such as the lengthy loading times and the fact that you can lose your one and only life far too easily, but there is enough gameplay this time around to back up the pretty graphics and atmospheric music and make it all worthwhile. Oh, and don't forget the free Roger Dean T-shirt!


Töten total!

Shadow of the Beast 2 logo

Die Erwartungen waren hoch: Wird die Grafik tatsächlich so schön sein, wie es die ersten Screenshots versprachen? Wurde dismal auf eine preistreibende Luxusausstattung verzichtet? Und vor allem: Ist die Spielbarkeit besser als beim ersten Teil?

Kurz und schmerzlos: Beast II ist eine herbe Enttäuschung. Dabei fängt alles so wunderbar an - zum Einstieg gibt es einen fantastischen Trickfilm voll herrlicher Sounds und Animationen. Tief beeindruckt sieht man zu, wie ein Fledermaus-Monster zu einer einsamen Hütte fliegt, und dort ein schreiendes Baby aus seiner Wiege zu entführen.

Die "verfilmte" Vorgeschichte hat bloß einen Haken: Sie lässt sich nicht abstellen, bei jedem Neustart ist das volle Kidnapping-Programm angesagt. Zudem beansprucht die aufwendige Eröffnungssequenz eine ganze Disk für sich alleine. Auf der anderen sind dann Grafiken und Musikstücke verewigt, die zum besten zählen, was jemals auf dem Amiga produziert wurde. Der Soundprogrammierer hat sich glatt 'ne goldene Schallplatte verdient, für den Spieldesigner bleibt nur der Strick übrig. Warum? Das Game ist nahezu unspielbar!

Dabei klingt die Aufgabe nach dem üblichen Action-Stoff: Der barbarische Held hat sich durch horizontal scrollende Landschaften voller Gegner zu kämpfen, um letztendlich das Baby zu befreien und dem bösen Magier das düstere Lebenslicht auszublasen. Die Frage ist nur, wie? Wohin man sich auch wendet, überall ist die feindliche Übermacht derart erdrückend, dass trotz der genauen Stick-Abfrage selbst geübte Action-Spezialisten ihr bisschen Lebensenergie nicht lange beisammen halten können. Ob bärtige Neandertaler, bissige Fische oder gruselige Vögel - alle tauchen stets in ganzen Rudeln auf! Da kann unser Barbar seinen Kampfjojo abfeuern, so oft er will, binnen kurzem sind nur noch seine Knochen übrig...

Rein theoretisch ist es auch möglich, sich mit einigen Charakteren zu unterhalten, um Extrawaffen oder wichtige Hinweise von ihnen zu bekommen. Aber wie haben sich die Programmierer das bloß in der Praxis vorgestellt? Bei der ständigen Hektik hat man einfach keine Chance, die Sätze zu entziffern, die da in winziger Schrift auf dem Screen auftauchen. Handel treiben kann man ebenfalls - wiederum nur theoretisch. Denn bevor man die entsprechende Taste gedrückt hat, ist einem längst ein Feind zuvorgekommen.

Freilich, die Grafik ist sogar noch schöner als beim ersten Teil; herrliche Pastellfarben und einfallsreich gestaltete Gegner, wohin das Auge blickt. Das unglaublich sanfte Scrolling ist beeindruckender denn je, und diesmal sind sogar die Animationen der Spielfigur und ihrer Widersacher gleichermaßen geschmeidig! Als Grafik- und Sounddemo ist Beast II fast unschlagbar, als Spiel ein glatter Reinfall. Und was die Preistreiberei betrifft: Um den Horror-Betrag von über 100 Steinen zu rechtfertigen, liegt der Packung auch diesmal wieder ein (hübsch) bedrucktes T-Shirt bei. Seid Ihr nun enttäuscht? Wir auch!!! (C. Borgmeier)


Shadow of the Beast 2 logo

Just when you thought it was safe to romp around the countryside in your designer goatskin jackstrap, the evil Beast Lord is back. (Er... or at least someone remarkably similar). Bigger, badder and more baby stealing than ever before, Beast II steps out of the shadows of Psygnosis. David Wilson was there to poke it with a very large, pointy stick.

Shadows can be pretty spooky things, can't they? Touch your thumb and forefinger in an angle poise, (not forgetting to touch your index finger knuckle with your middle finger) and 'hey, presto!' - a rather passable ostrich.
With a bit of practise and several hands even greater levels of shadow complexity can be achieved (practise these at home - the Taj Mahal, Stephenson's Rocket, Fatso, the Country Practice wombat).

If you're a beast, however, then your shadow can take on a whole new level of spookiness. Take Psygnosis' Shadow Of The Beast, for example. A tad skimpy on the gameplay side, and yet spookily it was massive. (There was nothing spooky about it - it was massive because of the atmosphere, the graphics and the technical accomplishment. Ed.)

Well, what if they tookBeast and made all the ropey bits rather good? This is what Psygnosis has done with Shadow Of The Beast II! Yep, the programmers listened to various comments passed to them about the shortfalls of the first game and have tried to rectify them in the sequel.

So what's the story then? I mean, you thought you'd duffed up the Beast Lord at the end of the first game, didn't you? Er... and you were right! But you hadn't counted on the evil Beast Mage. He's not only alive and well, but as you'll witness in the opening animated sequence he's also 'half inched' your baby sister! This is your cue for another session of hacking, bashing and puzzling your way through 16 horizontally parallax scrolling levels. Hurrah!

Amiga reviewDavid: Shadow Of The Beast II has been in the offing since the first game was completed and it's basically set forth to rectify all the problems encountered in the first game.

The result relies to a larger extent on puzzling rather than punching. Some of the puzzles are really quite complicated but another new feature can help you out on this score. You can now have a text interaction with characters, effected using two keys - A to ask something and O to offer something (trading items can be persuasive in getting more info from characters).

This is useful if you ind some of the traps too much for you, because valuable clues can be gleaned if you ask questions first, then chop off heads later. Further improvements include enemy sprites interacting with scenery - so they jump out of trees(!) for example. Kill 'em and they won't all fall off the screens as in the original, instead some explode, and you'll also find they've become more intelligent(!). Yep, if you try to duck under a blow from a baddie you can bet his next hit will be aimed low. (Ouch.)

Fortunately, the graphics are still as breathtaking as the original and you've got the same interloading screens. Three or four screens' worth of scroll at a nice speed, then the action stops for an accessing break. (Ho hum. Still, you don't have the over-a-minute-between-game wait of the original). Some puzzles you'll come across involve complex pulley machinery spreading over several screens. Operate it properly and it'll all work correctly. (Mind you, if you find a good place to watch all this, you'll be standing in the wrong place!).

If you die, you'll see an impressive piece of static graphic art accompanied by an absolutely horrid Snowey White style electric guitar dirge. Psygnosis went into raptures about how much memory it took and the technical achievement to realistically sample the 'axe'. I thought it was really horrible, but don't worry, you can turn it off.

Erm... and what else? Oh yes, Shadow Of The Beast II is rather dear at a penny under 35 squidlies, but the pack does include a fetching limited edition T-shirt. So there you have it - an improved sequel to a hugely successful original game, smaller in size but with more detail and more thought than a mindless slash!


THE BEASTLY SCENARIO
Shadow of the Beast 2: House Shadow of the Beast 2: Dark creature watching over the house
1 Here's a house (your house - bit miserable isn't it?) Here's a door. Windows, one, er... two (must be a Barrett Home). 2 Hello. Who's this geezer with the funny ears? He's spying on your homestead, so maybe he's a prospective buyer?
Shadow of the Beast 2: Beast mage Shadow of the Beast 2: Beast has teared off roof
3 That's no ordinary Joe! That's the evil Beast Mage. Gad! 4 In typical beastly fashion, the Beast won't use a door when there's a handy roof to tear off! It also offers a rather pervy viewpoint of ladies in low-cut fracks! Hem hem...
Shadow of the Beast 2: Beast flying away with baby
5 With the baby safely tucked in his claw, the Beast heads off to a world of child exploitation. That means, Miss Pears and a spot on the Mini Pops at the very least (maybe even an opportunity to sing Like A Virgin on a BBC Seaside Special!). Time for you to step in...

Shadow of the Beast 2 logo

Psygnosis, Amiga £34.95

The plight of your family makes the Simpsons look cosy. I mean first there was that unfortunate incident where you were kidnapped and turned into a beast-messenger by Maletoth, the Beast Lord. Years of mindless servitude ended only when you saw your father sarificed to Meltoth. This broke the spell which had controlled you, freeing you to confront the forces of darkness. Using your beast powers you fought through dozens of monsters and traps to defeat Zelek, the Beast Mage. Your victory returned you to humanoid form and calmed your blood rage.

Zelek's defeat has put him on the edge of death, and he knows he must be successful in his next task for Maletoth - finding your replacement. He searches long and hard before finding your mother and her newborn baby girl. Zelek instantly transforms into his beast form - a hideous monster with huge leathery wings. A short flight takes him to their cottage where he smashes through the roof to snatch the infant.

Your grief-stricken mother soon passes the news to you with undeserved guilt - and an unstoppable drive to save the child. All your money is spent on buying passage to Kara Moon on Tragon, an incredibly dangerous place now occupied by Zelek and his minions. Armed only with a mace, you step fearlessly into the massive trap Zelek has set for you. To rescue your sister you must find Zelek and defeat him.

Beast 2 follows the basic format of Beast - a multidirectional scrolling arcade adventure - but with numerous enhancements and differences. You can collect gold to buy weapons or food (restoring energy). You can also interact with other characters. Press 'O' to offer an object to someone and press 'A' to ask about an object or character (you can input text here!).


Phil King This must be one of the most frustrating games ever, it is so flippin' difficult. My goes lasted no longer than a couple of minutes. Even with an infinite energy cheat the game is hard enough and totally merciless to any mistakes, like doing tasks in slightly the wrong order. Some of the puzzles are quite clever and, with hindsight, logical, but the basic game content resembles a simple, linear adventure with some very testing beat-'em-up action thrown in to make things harder. Superlative, imaginative graphics and a stunning soundtrack create a good atmosphere but even they can't quite make up for the overall lack of depth and ridiculously high difficulty level.
Stuart Wynne Beast 2 makes no compromises for anyone who found the original difficult: once again a few careless moves sees your single life crumble into bonemeal. This is irksome for reviewers, but for people who want their £35 to stretch over weeks not hours it might be more welcome. Certainly the more you play, the more apparent the attack patterns become so the impossible becomes plausible. The sheer variety of creatures, from massive humanoids to nicely animated leaping blobs, is obviously one of the main attractions of Beast 2. The famous, multi-layered background scroll has been sacrificed to allow much more detail in these and they are very impressive indeed. And this time interaction is not limited to punching - the text input provides plenty of opportunity for intricate puzzles and an intriguing storyline. There is also plenty of switches to throw so if you fancy an beautiful-looking arcade adventure requiring pixel-perfect leaps and combat, this fits the bill. It is not as compulsively playable as say Blood Money, but it is a more open-ended game: you have no idea what will happen next - another monster attack, or a priest wanting to talk.