The Shadowgate franchise has appeared on systems from the Apple II to the Nintendo 64, and it's a favorite graphical adventure series of many inveterate gamers. Shadowgate Classic for mobile is a port of the eponymous Game Boy Color title, which, in turn, was a slightly modified version of the NES Shadowgate. In its current incarnation, the game is as challenging and intriguing as it ever was. Graphical adventures are best enjoyed with a mouse, however, even if it's the ancient block of plastic connected to the Apple IIc. In the mobile Shadowgate, you'll have to guide the cursor with your phone's navigation pad and use the numerical keys to perform actions. If you can look beyond this cumbersome interface, you'll have a great time with this classic brain-buster.
Shadowgate's signature conceit is its use of torches as timers. The game takes place in a darkened château, and you'll have to continually wield a light source, lest you fall and break your neck. Your torch's flame will begin to flicker six turns (actions) before it goes out. During that time, you'll have to ignite another torch, either using the existing flame or a nearby light source.
Your torch, along with every item in the game, serves multiple purposes. It's also useful for burning up mummies or melting blocks of ice. You'll have to consider your inventory carefully and decide how to use your pilfered supplies to your advantage. From time to time, you'll occasionally have to use "thyself" to interact with an object or obstacle. Even when you accept a hint from the game, by pressing the pound key, the puzzles remain challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
There are nine possible ways to interact with your environment, each of which is assigned a key. For example, to open a door, you could simply mouse over it, then press "3." That's initially tough to remember, so you'll probably end up navigating the command menu often, at least at first. This extra step isn't an impediment in a slow-paced adventure game like Shadowgate, but it can grow a bit tiresome.
Shadowgate is turn-based, and its graphics are basically static...at least until you trigger an animation. The game looks much better than its NES progenitor, on which platform it was one of the very first traditional adventure games available. You'll encounter load times between these richly colored screens, but they only last a second or so. There's no sound at all, but this doesn't detract much from gameplay.
Shadowgate is surprisingly compelling on mobile, even without a mouse-driven user interface. The environments are richly detailed, in addition to being laden with puzzles and pitfalls. You'll die often, but a zippy save-game feature prevents this from becoming a nuisance. Shadowgate Classic will send older gamers into nostalgic reverie, as well as let newcomers see what all the fuss was about.