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The game consists of 20 huge levels that once unlocked can be visited and completed in pretty much any order you like. Four of them exist in Liveside (where Mike Leroi lives) with the rest accessed when he changes into the ShadowMan and enters Deadside.
The game starts in 'Bayou Paradis' which is the area in Liveside where 'Nettie' the Voodoo priestess is first met. She acts as your mentor, offering advice when you get stuck (and you WILL get stuck), but often her clues will be wrapped up in Voodoo mumbo-jumbo, so won't always be obvious.
When in Liveside Mike is restricted by his human form. When swimming under water he has to keep coming to the surface for air. He can't jump nearly as high, or as far, as ShadowMan and if he falls from a high ledge it may well kill him. Mikes health can be topped up using medical packs hidden in barrels, which is just as well due to the damage he will suffer when attacked by the many creatures that inhabit this world.
Since Deadside is where people go when they die it stands to reason that should Mike be killed he too will end up there, but in doing so, becomes the ShadowMan. He can also jump between worlds (and identities) by using the 'Teddy Bear' that belonged to his younger brother Luke, which 'Nettie' gives him at the start of the game. This toy also allows the player to quickly warp back to many of the areas previously visited.
On becoming the ShadowMan things improve dramatically. Being dead means that he can't actually die again, but should his health hit zero he will be taken back to the entrance of the area where he expired. To prevent this health can be topped up by collecting life-force energy receptacles hidden within in each area. Energy that is left behind when you kill one of your enemies can also be absorbed.
The main entrance to Deadside is located in the 'Marrow Gates' area and is guarded by an Irish skull-headed serpent called 'Jaunty' (don't ask... it's a long story). This guy is great at unscrambling what you have been told by 'Nettie' into some form of sense and as such its worth chatting to him at various points in the game.
This first part of Deadside gives you a good idea of how massive the game is. As with most 3D adventures you will have to leap across gaps, find keys, activate switches, shuffle across tiny ledges, swim through lakes, push blocks and collect new weapons/power-ups.
I mentioned earlier that the game levels are non-linear, which is true, however you must first unlock the entrances to each of them in a pretty strict order. The coffin shaped 'seals' blocking your progress can only be broken by becoming a progressively more powerful ShadowMan. You can charge him up by finding and absorbing the purple 'dead souls' which are held in containers (govi) hidden throughout each level in the game.
Located somewhere deep within the 'Marrow Gates' area is the first of these barriers. This can be opened using the shadow-power that is currently held (level 0). Travelling through this entrance will take you to an area that contains the 'Prophecy' - a large book that gives you vital information about each of the weapons, pickups and main characters within the game.
The next level entrance cannot be opened until enough 'dead souls' have been found to charge the shadow-powers up to level 1. As you become more powerful, so do your weapons, which is just as well because the enemies get tougher the game progresses.
Access can only be gained to about half of the areas within each level when first entered. Much of the level is hidden in places that you will need to acquire new skills to reach. Later in the game the ability to push hot blocks, climb waterfalls, walk on hot coals and walk through fire will be gained. As soon as you receive a new object or skill, its worth warping back to the earlier levels to see if you can now visit a little more of each area.
The weapons that found in each of the levels vary depending on whether you find them in Deadside or Liveside.
Deadside weapons are Voodoo based and fire skulls, flames and shockwaves. Some of them have a dual purpose such as the 'Baton', which allows transportation to hidden areas when plunged into any of the small flaming alters that are scattered throughout the game. Liveside weapons are more traditional, consisting of Shotguns and automatic machine guns. In both cases you will need to constantly re-arm the weapons by finding the hidden supplies.
Another unique feature is the ability of your character to put an item or weapon in each hand and use them together. Enemies can be killed from a distance by using the 'sniper' view, or closer using the auto-aim facility.
Many different forms of enemy will be encountered... Some with one head or two, four legs, two legs or no legs, some armed and some that can fly - there are even a couple of crocodiles thrown in for good measure. Its refreshing to see that rather than just using the same four or five types scattered throughout the game, each new area that you visit has its own variant. Unfortunately the one thing that they all have in common is their lack of intelligence. You will find yourself running past, jumping over or even straight through them rather than hanging about to fight with them. This is another area that should have been looked at before the game was released.
I'm not sure if its another bug, but when you clear a level of enemies and pick-ups it stays clear until you use your teddy to warp back to it. At this point all of the health, ammo and of course enemies return once more. The only things that don't re-appear are the already collected 'dead souls' and weapons - so I guess this may be intentional.
In addition to the above, the five serial killers and the devil himself must be disposed of. These exist in Liveside but can only be killed by the ShadowMan. I won't spoil the game by telling you how to kill them, but suffice it to say that you will need to find some way to get ShadowMan from Deadside over to Liveside.
So, it's an adventure and a shooter, but it's also a platform game. Yup there's moving platforms to leap onto, bridges and stepping stones that disappear under your feet, slamming doors to run through, gargoyles that spit fire and a whole lot more.
Unfortunately this is the area of the game that will have you throwing your controller down in frustration, time and time again. The major problem is that due to the 3D nature of the game, judging the distances between platforms is more often down to luck rather than skill. I spent over 3 hours trying to get past a small area consisting of two moving platforms that had to be traversed. No matter when or where I tried to leap onto the first platform it threw me off (killing me in the burning coals below). I eventually re-set the PlayStation and when I reached the same area again, the moving platforms has lost their greasy qualities and I passed it with ease, hmmmmm...
This is a single disk game for 1 Player. It is compatable with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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