Following on from their success with their 2018 smash hit puzzle platform adventure game, Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis, the Icon 64, the team are back with their H.P. Lovecraft inspired platform adventure game – The Shadow Over Hawksmill.
Set in 1947, the game starts off with a nice looking animated introductory clip showing a dark and stormy night where you, Inspector Black, are in your den writing a letter that explains that the folk from the town Hawksmill have all mysteriously disappeared over night and that you fear that the ancient dark gods have returned with the view of taking back their world. So you are off to Hawksmill to investigate.
As we move into the game with the Inspector arriving on the outskirts of town, it’s hard not to be impressed with the overall rain and lightning effects on screen. Navigating our way into the town, finding nothing but locked houses, you quickly learn that the key to The Shadow Over Hawksmill is to search everything. You will eventually be rewarded with a green key that can be used on the door with the green lock. Moving into the house, we are instantly taken aback as we come across dark shadowy figures roaming its halls, accentuating the overall eerie ambience that the game gives off.
Playing the role of a proper Police Inspector then you obviously will be equipped with a pistol and will have no trouble of disposing of the creepy brethren but beware, your bullets are not unlimited and you will need to be on the constant look out for additional ammunition and re-load regularly if you are going to even have half a chance to figure out where all the good folk of Hawksmill have gone to. The shooting mechanism is a clever one in that you hold down the joystick button for a target to appear, which can be move up and down in an arc but it does have a slight downside in that one bullet is instantly expelled while doing this. As you progress through the game, you will have the opportunity to upgrade to a shot gun and a machine gun, but beware that the latter will use up your bullets at a faster rate.
Re-spawning enemies are a feature of the game design but fortunately a time delay is utilised with this, ensuring that you don’t have to instantly kill the same enemy straight away just because you’ve got back into a screen that you have just cleared.
Moving back into the game, you will eventually uncover a hidden underground cavern that you will have to jump, climb, search and shoot your way around to locate items that will help you unlock the other houses in the town, freeing the townsfolk being held captive and locating 10 statutes along the way. But the ultimate objective of the game is to figure out how to get rid of the dark evil that has overtaken Hawksmill.
Despite the lack of a save feature or checkpoints, The Shadow Over Hawksmill is still quite accessible to the casual player but persistence will pay off as with each play you learn a little more about the game and learn to adapt your strategy likewise. None of the puzzles are obtuse and as long as you search everything you should have no issue being able open up the game world. To help you along the way, you can pick up apples that are to be used to restore your health back to full as needed.
The overall game map is about 70 screens, which is a good length BUT this is perhaps the one area where the game feels ‘less’ when compared to Rocky Memphis. While the Legend of Atlantis has a similar amount of screens, it does have a ‘dark’ mode that, when triggered, effectively doubles the game length as it changes the way the game is played and for me this is what elevated it to Game of the Year status two years ago.
Visually, the game looks stunning with its effective use of colours making the game ‘pop’ out of the screen. You main character moves around the screen smoothly with some great animations in effect. The somewhat haunting music soundtrack is very well done and sits in the background to add to the overall feeling that you are in immediate danger. It’s perhaps not as memorable or catchy as the tune from Rocky Memphis, which I would find myself whistling to myself while playing or (embarrassingly walking down the street) but it’s hard to deny the quality of the production values on display here.
Throughout this review you will have noticed that I have referred to the Rocky Memphis game. The reason for this is that The Shadow Over Hawksmill provides a similar gaming experience to Rocky Memphis albeit in a different graphical skin. This comparison helps me and those who have played The Legend of Atlantis to best evaluate the overall quality of The Shadow of Hawksmill title. In saying this, Hawksmill’s use of colour schemes makes it instantly more attractive than Rocky Memphis but I would suggest that the latter swings things back in its favour with dual mode gameplay that is missing from The Shadow Over Hawksmill. Really both games are fantastic.
Evaluating the game on its own merit then the only conclusion I can come away with is that The Shadow Over Hawksmill is a sensational 2020 release for the Commodore 64 and there is no hesitation in recommending the game who appreciate the genre.
Fans of Rocky Memphis: The Legend of Atlantis will not be disappointing with this game built off the same engine that utilises a more sombre game environment to great effect.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.