The tale of Lathan, last of the Argent Kings, and his quest to find the two remaining ancient relics in the Five Kingdoms continues in Shadoan, the animated adventure from Interplay and Virtual Image Productions.
Take note. If you're searching for an extremely challenging adventure to keep you awake nights with its intriguing puzzles, look elsewhere. Shadoan, like its prequel, Kingdom: The Far Reaches, is geared for the young gamer - someone either too young to vote or someone with relatively little adventure game experience.
Having provided the target audience disclaimer, on to the game. Shadoan has a parental option that shields any impressionable minds (perhaps even your own) from witnessing a certain degree of violence. However, if you can handle the misfortunes that regularly occur on the Itchy and Scratchy Show (The Simpsons), go for the regular install. In comparison to many games, this is a walk in the park. But for some people, it's important to avoid exposure to violence and the inclusion of a bypass is admirable.
The most stunning aspect of this game are the visuals. From the opening credits straight through to the end, the animation and the graphics are extremely well executed. Even the interface is stunning, with its highly detailed graphics including the animated sequence that plays when an item from Lathan's inventory is selected.
As Lathan, the hero, you move through the game using the mouse to select items in the Scrying Glass, the Farsight Window, or the Map of Journey. The adventure unfolds in animated movies viewed from the third person perspective. Your cue to participate is when a movie ends. Watch out for the hour glass. If the sand starts to fall, select the correct item quickly to avoid injury or death before the sand disappears. However, as you can save the game, you have practically unlimited chances to select the most appropriate item. And although you have three lives (represented by red roses on the interface graphic) to use, wasting all of them and ending you adventure early is unlikely - you have access to unlimited healing powers.
In addition to the Farsight Window there are several other items on the interface you can activate. These include Lathan's Journal,where you can jot (type) down notes, and the Book of History filled with information about the people and places of the land. Just for fun check out the Shadoanomicon book - very creative.
Finding the two relics and solving the game is not extremely difficult, but a few minor frustrations might hamper your progress. Although the gameplay appears to be non-linear, this isn't completely true. You must find the Dagger of Arnes before you can uncover items and clues that will lead you to the Crown of Malric. Also, when you find Daelon's Portal he'll give you three magic scrolls, but you must collect each one during separate visits. He needs time to craft each one (I guess even great wizards can't be rushed in these matters), so even if you've explored everything in the Far Reaches, you'll have to revisit several locations while he completes his work. And when you're at an action point, you can only select an item visible in the Scrying Glass. Items in the Pouch cannot be utilized until they appear in this glass ball. What's the point of having all those neat trinkets if you can't use them at your discretion?
Shadoan is a pleasant experience. The straightforward puzzles and fairly simplistic gameplay are extremely well suited for young adults eager to dive into adventure games or for adults with little PC game experience. Although hardly a brain scorcher like Myst, Shadoan does offer some moderate challenges, since the path Lathan should take is not always blatantly obvious. If you simply like really beautiful animation and fairy tales, this game is at least worth considering.