A LONG, long time ago somebody wrote a book full of evil, and then somebody else found it and read it, and all the evil flew out and infected a vast fantasy land, and you've got to make it right again.
There are ten characters to control, but you start with three - King Mithulin, Avarath the Wizard, and Ulin-Gail the Satyr.
Yes, it's that sort of game - lots of strange names and places to explore, all very Tolkienish. You also get to see the latest wheeze from Mikro-Gen, the Mikro-Plus interface which has 16K of the game ROMmed into it.
Most of the extra memory seems to be about having a really enormous playing area. The graphics themselves are not particularly special, but you get attractive views of the land and your characters, which you play one at a time, are animated.
Mikro-Gen seems to have been unable to reproduce the masking effects of Everyone's a Wally for the graphics, but the colour-clash really isn't too bad.
It's very much an adventure game on a grand scale. Most of the heroes have objects associated with them - Holdin's Helm, or the Veil of Guinol. Clues to the appropriate use of such objects are to be found in a 100 page novelette called Shadow of the Unicorn, written by Dale and Shelley McLoughlin.
The book tells of what happened prior to the adventure. It is particularly helpful in explaining who the various characters are and also filling out places on the map provided with the game - which is neither complete nor entirely accurate.
Characters vary in abilities. Avarath is clearly the most useful to start with, because he can zap the nasties with his magic staff. Unfortunately, he loses energy fast, so he'll have to look out for magic bushes and wells to replenish his energy.
Some characters, such as Avarath and Mithulin, are vital to the game and you lose if they die. Others are less important, and serve to protect or run errands for the major players.
Shadow is obviously a big game, and after hours of play we felt we had only scratched the surface. At the price it's clearly great value, since you get the 16K black box and joystick interface thrown in, as well as a novel. Unfortunately, you can only use the interface with the game.
We've given it a Classic after a bit of soul-searching - somehow you expect miracles just because there's some hardware hanging off the back of the Spectrum, and miracles you don't get. But the full quest, if you can fathom out what's going on, is obviously going to take a while to sort out, and the setting is atmospheric and intelligently worked out.
Memory: 48K + 16K included
Joystick: Kempston interface included