The distinction between adventure and arcade has definitely taken a battering recently, and Shadowfire is going to worsen the situation! Denton Designs have here devised and designed an entirely novel game which uses icons instead of text and thus brings the adventure right into the arcade player's lap.
Shadowfire is a new kind of starship capable of jumping from planet to planet orbit, and is therefore a rather powerful weapon. The plans for this new ship are on a microdisc embedded in the spine of Ambassador Kryxix who, sadly, has been captured by General Zoff, a traitor to the Empire, and is held captive on Zoff's ship, the Zoff5. It is only a matter of time (100 minutes in fact) before Zoff's interrogation team discover the plans for Shadowfire which will put Zoff in a position to rule the Empire.
Enigma is an organisation dedicated to the Emperor's service, a mix of heroes, criminal scum and cybernetic engineering. They are the only people who have a chance of getting on board Zoff's ship, rescuing Ambassador Kryxix, capturing Zoff and either taking or destroying the Zoff5. The game is played against the clock in real-time with you controlling the Enigma team.
There are six members in the team. The leader, Zark Montor is a human, Syylk is an insectoid, a ruthless fighter who has a pathological hatred for Zoff (a weakness perhaps?), Sevrina Maris is a female human with a criminal record and a specialist in picking locks - she tends to be loyal only to herself (a problem), Torik is a bird-like creature, a gun runner and freebooter - good with explosives and due to his flying abilities, the fastest mover and a good scout, Maul is a weapons droid designed to carry many different weapons systems, slow moving but well protected, and finally there is Manto, a transport droid with very little self protection capability.
Shadowfire has strong elements of strategy because handling the characters well depends very much on utilising their best strengths at the right time and minimising the effects of any weaknesses they may exhibit. Strategy also comes into the way the characters are moved about the Zoff5 once they are on board, using Torik as a scout, but remembering that he is vulnerable to attack, using Sevrina to get through locked doors and Zark or Syylk where tough action is demanded.
The screen display is complicated - a better idea of the interrelation may be got from looking at the various screen pictures on these pages than from the written word. Basically there are five main screens, each broken up into sections. The Team screen displays a graphic of the six characters and it is here that a character to control is selected. The Status Screen displays the attributes of the selected character, with icons indicating agility (movement possible), strength, stamina and weight carried. Green bars indicate the amount of attribute. The Objects Screen allows manipulation of weapons and equipment; there are three subscreens which show objects in the same location as the selected character, a middle screen shows objects carried, and one on the right contains the icons by which the objects may be manipulated. The Movement Screen also has three subscreens, the largest contains arrows for the eight directions with filled-in arrows representing possible directions for that location. The middle screen informs you of the character's present location, and the right contains icons for changing screen. The Battle Screen's three subscreens show characters in the same location including friend and foe, an eight-directional compass in the middle and at the right a series of activating icons which allow attack with a selected weapon. The three attack icons command a character to do battle and if successful advance into the enemy's location; stand fast and do battle; or retire to a safer location. Some weapons are useful when used within the same location, while others may be fired into an adjacent location - all of which calls into question the strategical role of the weapons used, forcing the player to ensure that characters are suitably armed or near a supply of interchangeable weapons.
The entire game may be joystick driven. The cursor is placed over an action icon like 'pick up' or 'drop' which is activated using the fire button, then moved to the object icon desired. All the various main screens are accompanied by a top set of three screens, the left showing the status of all six characters (see screen picture captions), the centre showing a map of the selected location, and the right showing a large picture of the selected character. An information 'printout' panel displays text which is of use to the player. On each screen a set of coloured monitors allow movement between the various screens (see pictures).
'Shadowfire is a very difficult game to describe or put into any category, perhaps the best thing to say is that it's brilliant. At first the icons seem a bit daunting but after some practice they are really simple to use. The graphics are good especially those in the character screen (incidentally the graphics on the Spectrum are much clearer than those of the CBM 64). The game is quite tough to play and will take some time before it is totally mastered. What makes it extra special is the fact that each character has its own peculiar abilities so making each one play an important role in the success of your mission. Strategy, as in Lord of Midnight, is important in Shadowfire. It is best just to play a few games to familiarise yourself with the general surroundings of the ship before you seriously contemplate completing the game. Looking at the CBM 64 version and the Spectrum version I would say that the Spectrum version is superior having clearer graphics (not mucked up by too much colour like the CBM) and it is a harder game to play. Overall Shadowfire is an excellent game which will appeal to almost anyone, especially people who liked Lords of Midnight or Alien.
'Having six characters to control is good, because in a way it gives you six lives, yet you have to treat them as a team to succeed at all. On the other hand it also means having to take care of all six, which can be a bit involving at times, and has you dashing between characters with the joystick. There is a lot of on-screen information - very good - and the graphics are superb. Shadowfire is a complex game which will take some time to play right through, especially as it takes a while to get the hang of the icons and how to use them quickly, but I think it will have a wide appeal.'
'When I start on a game like this, I like to know that there is a strongly worked out background, because involvement with the characters and their aims seems important. Just reading the accompanying colour instruction book is enough to let the player know that details are all worked out, present and correct. Indeed, as the game progresses (or games!), you begin to know the characters under your control quite well, each with an independent attitude to the tasks in hand. This takes Shadowfire well into the realms of strategy and role-playing. In looks, this game is simply stunning. The fluency of the graphics and the way the screens 'iris in' and 'iris out' is slick and effective. Special mention must be made of the character screens, which are wonderful, detailing each person or thing in great detail. Icon control may be new to computer games, but as a control method it must surely be here to stay, and its use, plus the game design, the characterisation, the skills required and the extraordinary graphics all add up to Shadowfire being state of the art without doubt.'
: up/down 2nd row/3rd row, left/right alternate bottom row, fire, any key top rowJoystick
: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Cursor type, FullerKeyboard play
: simple and very responsiveUse of colour
: a bit limitedScreens
: an endless supplySpecial features
: Icon driven - and the Spectrum and CBM64 versions come on one cassetteGeneral Rating:
A state of the art game of the 'modern' sort (ie hard to define exactly), and an absolute must for any serious (or not so serious) Spectrum owner. Highly recommended.
The TEAM SCREEN where characters to be controlled are selected.
Six small icons indicating the present status of the characters: white is inactive; blue os moving; attacking is magenta; defencing is cyan; yellow is retreating; green is picking lock; character dying is black.Icon of the Emperor showing that no character is presently in play.The six icons for selecteing the characters:SyylkSevrinaMantoMaulZark MontorTorikIcon to return to previous screen.
The STATUS SCREEN, and SEVRINA is having some difficulty with the weight of her equipment.
Viewscreen showing map of the Zoff5. Characters present in a location flash alternately.Agility (speed or movement) indicator.Stamina indicator.Weight carried. In this case, because Sevrina's strength is low, the bar has turned red, indicating she is carrying too much.Quit to movement screen.Quit to Battle screen.Cancel command or return to a previous screen.Quit to objects screen.
Checking out what is too heavy for SEVRINA can be done by going to the OBJECTS SCREEN.
Icon to pick up an object (actually a hand holding a briefcase).Icon to drop an object (actually a hand releasing a briefcase).Object in location but not carried, in this case a laser rifle.The weight bar indicates that one of the objects carred is too heavy for Sevrina.Objects carried by Sevrina: the yellow toolkit, the red laser pistol.Icon to activate some of the objects (like the toolkit).Indication of an object held in the hand for immediate use (in this case a laser pistol which may be used in the Battle screen).Icon to use an object.
The MOVEMENT SCREEN with birdman TORIK on his scouting travels.
Screen for selection of movement. The filled in arrows indicate possible directions in this location, but a direction is still only selectable as long as the way isn't blocked by a locked door (in which case the cursor won't form a box around the arrow).Quit to Objects Screen.Quit to Battle Screen.Delete selection or exit screen to main.
The BATTLE SCREEN; some minutes into the game and ZARK MONTOR confronts the enemy.
Large icon indicates character in operation (Zark Montor).Left screen shows characters in a location being 'looked into' (selectable from the right-hand screen). In this case a yellow Targ.The selection cursor (it forms a box when over an icon).Icon for 'flip over' - used when there are too many characters to display at once.Middle screen where direction for attack, retreat or looking into may be selected.Attack icon, tells character to advance if successful.Defend icon, stand fast and do battle.Retreat icon, retire firing to the next location.The left screen now shows the characters in a location.