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Shadow Man Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 57%
Shadow Man
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
To say that Acclaim was very hit-or-miss would be one of the biggest understatements in video game history. Unlike their longtime subsidiary LJN whose output ranged from "average" to "sheer torture," Acclaim has had several times that they produced gold like Alien Trilogy countered by times that royally sucked like Total Recall. The worst times were when they had the potential for greatness but a few bad decisions kept them from it. For an example of that, look at Shadow Man.

Shadow Man had me stoked just from the premise alone. Based on a comic book that I never got a chance to read, it's about a guy named Michael LeRoi who, through voodoo mysticism, became Shadow Man, a hero protecting the world of the living from threats from the land of the dead. When a being called Legion starts assembling an army consisting of the souls of history's most infamous killers like Jack the Ripper, Michael has to go stop it. The story twists in interesting ways, including a 180 near the end that, while cliche, is done effectively. Unfortunately, the voice work is awful, especially the voice of Nettie, Mike's voodoo priestess aide, who sounds like she was desperately trying to sound as authentic as Miss Cleo.

Shadow Man ()Click For the Full Picture Archive

A gameplay description of "Undead Zelda" isn't far off the mark. The worlds Deadside and Liveside are huge with loading screens only appearing occasionally. The clear separation between Mike's abilities in the two worlds keeps the game challenging. Unfortunately, the game suffers from two huge flaws. One is that the lock-on system is terrible. Mike's spectral weapons depend on using the left trigger to lock-on, but the lock-on cuts off at random. I'd say 80% of my deaths in the game were caused by the lock-on failing at a critical moment. The second is that the game worlds are just too big. Unlike Zelda and Soul Reaver where the world gradually opens up as new abilities are gained, Shadow Man just drops you into Deadside with no map or directions. Even Morrowind at least put SOMETHING on your agenda at the start! It took me hours before I found a new plot point. The game really tested my patience.

As the game was released on the PS1 and the N64 as well, it's clear that the Dreamcast version was the superior one. The character models look good for the time, and the texture work in the world was very clean. The framerate also stays at 60 frames-per-second all the way through. Unfortunately, the world is also very drab; I got sick of seeing only brown, gray, and red. The music and sound effects work well in establishing the atmosphere though, strangely, the music seems to cut out at random, breaking the immersion.

Shadow Man is a perfect example of a game in which its design defeated itself. Its story and atmosphere were great, but the gameplay and world design screwed up too often. It's not a bad choice for a dark Zelda-like adventure, especially for those interested in voodoo. As for me, I'll just stick with Soul Reaver for my undead Zelda fix.
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