Shadows of Adam is a retro JRPG with a lot going for it. The game stars out in the sleepy town of Adam, where strange things are afoot and a couple of young hero wannabes (although both are rather reluctant, in their own ways) are forced to go down into the tangle of strange new plants that are squeezing the life out of the village. Here they encounter a book with mystical properties, visions of one of the intrepid explorer’s father, and a man who appears out of nowhere to help them.
What we have here is a traditional RPG with a few modern trimmings (I particularly appreciated the way health potions and resurrection spells were automatically aimed at the character with the lowest HP / fallen characters respectively). It’s got a solid plot, good writing, and a minimalist design that works both for and against the game; it’s easy to pick up and play, with enough variety in battles things interesting and you can issue commands speedily; on the other hand, parts of the game become rather repetitive. This is particularly true in the case of the puzzles – they’re well designed and some are very clever, but almost all of them are the same basic type – and the humour. The player characters all have some sort of back story, there is a surprise or two along the way and cut scenes are used very effectively both as breaks in the action and ways to further the storyline. However the “bad guys” are (with one exception who I won’t name, who is sort of both a good guy and a bad guy) all pantomime villains and while their first couple of appearances in the game are amusing, they get a bit tiresome as you get further into the game. Some may find the relatively small number of items, equipment and skills a disappointment, although to me they all fitted the game pretty well and the enemies often required specific strategies to beat.
The game follows a basic pattern of receive a quest, get to the location, battle through to the end solving puzzles along the way, and beat the boss. There are a few other things to do in addition to the main quests though, especially later on in the game when you obtain transportation that lets you go access areas previously impossible to get to. The graphics are very nice – retro, vibrantly colourful and with plenty of special effects and little animations (some of which were quite funny). The difficulty is balanced well – if you don’t save often you might be in trouble, but at the same time there were only a couple of times I had to backtrack and grind up a couple of levels. The battles are about stats yes, but more about strategy, and you sometimes have to be careful with your abilities and supplies. The sound effects and music are nice too, and it’s a fun experience. The game took me 16 hours to complete (including a few side quests I didn’t really need to do), with 17/21 achievements obtained. (Take into account that since I got distracted by my kids on a few occasions, 16 hours is probably 2-3 hours over my actual play time!!)
All in all, if you want a relatively straightforward but entertaining and nicely challenging (without being too difficult) JRPG, you’ll definitely enjoy Shadows of Adam. Although it does lack a certain complexity, it more than makes up for it in charm and playability. (Personally I think a lot of RPGs go rather overboard with the complexity anyway, although it's all a matter of taste I guess!)
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