Repel Shadow Master's advance forces using your armored all-terrain vehicle. Then continue your post-apocalyptic blastfest on six off-world environments before facing the crazed wrath of the hungriest of the powerhungry. Shadow Master Multiplayer options allow up to eight opponents to blast each other away, within seven specially designed battle arenas.
- Up to 8 player head-to-head network option (via LAN or Direct Link)
- 16 extensive levels of rapid-fire, adrenaline-fuelled action of 7 atmospheric alien worlds.
- Thousands of 3D-modelled alien enemies, comprising of over 60 creature types.
- Mind-blowing graphics based on the conceptual designs of fantasy artist Rodney Matthews.
~from the back of the box
I remember reading a preview about Shadow Master in the Official PlayStation magazine way back when. Psygnosis were pushing the admittedly impressive looking first-person-shooter from a fledgling developer spun off from Traveller's Tales (of LEGO fame). There was a lot going on in those screenshots; explosions, lens flares and many other lighting effects filled the screens. Even though I devoured the demo that same magazine featured several issues later, it wouldn't be until this very moment until I finally played the full game. This time, however, it would be on PC.
In my eyes, the visuals still hold up. Polygons are nice and chunky with imaginative designs from Rodney Matthews. The story, with its warring alien factions and merciless space pirate, is just enough to tie the action together without it crushing under the weight of hours of exposition. I still like the gameplay to some degree too, but this is where the quarter-century old game shows its age.
You can select from a variety of special weapons by pressing Space (left).
These horned power-ups increase your health (right).
Unlike similar games of this era, you are not on foot. You control an armoured vehicle stocked with some serious firepower and a cool-looking HUD that only occasionally gets in your way. Because of this, your movements are floaty, often taking a few moments before you come to a stop. It's easy to bump into wall or enemies, but unless those walls have spikes or those enemies are on the attack, it won't do much damage if any.
In a bizarre move, you cannot change the controls. Movement is tied to the arrow keys with < and > being strafe (or Z and X if you prefer). Ctrl, Enter or Alt is your primary weapon, Shift blasts your secondary weapon while holding down Space allows you to choose what secondary weapon that is. You'll also need to look up and down with the Page Up and Page Down keys, making cramped play a must.
At first, you may be asking me "why would I need to look up?". Sure, the game does have auto aim which seems to handle most enemies that are above you. It is most needed to search for clues and switches to open up doors. You buggy hugs close to the floor, making everything tower above you as if you were an insect among, well, giant-er insects.
Shoot at these symbols to input your codex. Answer found elsewhere (left).
Some door switches are in less obvious places than others (right).
Shadow Master, for the most part, is a linear experience. There are times where you'll have to scour the map to open up the way forward. These come in the form of round switches in out-of-the-way places or frescos to give you the answer to the codex in that room you just uncovered. Some of these are quite hard to spot, being found on top of high structures in the distance or hidden in a secret room. Some are even timed, requiring to shoot each one within a given time. It makes for a nice change of pace in a game that's otherwise all gun blazing.
There are other flourished that also break up the action nicely. One level takes control of your forward momentum as you slide down a snowy mountain making it similar to an on-rails shooter. Another is timed, requiring to open up doorways to lead a floating ship to safety. Others feature huge, bulking bosses whether it be rampaging dinosaur or an angry octopus. Each one has a trick you'll need to figure out in order to kill them and it can take some trial and error.
You can instigate quite the colourful carnage complete with massive explosions.
As for the enemies that get in your way, they are varied and numerous. Spiders scramble up to take little nibbles out of you while floating stone heads float erratically before shooting projectiles. Each of them explode in a satisfying ball of fire when defeated and when multiples die at once it becomes quite the spectacle.
Shadow Master is actually quite a find. While the controls are a little fiddly and the campaign rather short, it has a colourful charm no usually found in such shooters. Hammerhead would last another five years (and three games) before they merged back with their parent company but their first game out of the gate was a bombastic banger that too few people remember.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber runs natively on Windows. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 349 Mb. Install Size: 427 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Shadow Master is © Psygnosis
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me