A prequel?! This feels quite bit like cheating, even for the Worlds of Power series. Few if any games at the time this book came out had an extensive enough canon behind them that a solid story could be generated for a prequel. Anything in the world could be used to pad the events that lead up to the beginning of Shadowgate, so long as you mention Lakmir and The Warlock Lord. But with a grain of salt, we’ll move forward, but hang on to your skepticism for the present time.

I used to get an obscure Nintendo magazine called Future Play back around 1989 and was amped to see the creepy, gothic – yet exceedingly 80’s ad within for Shadowgate.

sgateCaptain N, this kid is not.

It would be about 2 years later when I first rented this game that I found out I sucked at it exponentially, and I’ll admit every embarrassing detail. Choices Movie and Game Rental in little old Southampton, PA let me rent this sucker for about 2 days and I actually never made it past the front door. The point-and-click genre wasn’t really something I was too big on at the time and rented games only had manuals with them if you were lucky and if all the planets were aligned properly on the day of your rental, plus no internet walkthroughs then, etc. etc. so I was out of luck and it never occurred to me to tinker with the skull over the front door for the dang key hidden behind it. Why couldn’t The Warlock Lord just hide it in a more practical place like a normal person?


Back to the book at hand, Scholastic and our good buddy F.X. Nine seemed to have chosen oddly when it came to this game novelization. Forget Chubby Cherub or Mappyland – of all things to pick for a young audience of readers they pick Shadowgate(!?) You’d think that the last thing they’d want is game that is notorious for some of the most detailed, over-the-top, graphic death narrations.


And then there’s this butthead.

See whatcha think…..

“You jump down the hole and, after a couple of moments, hit the floor!! It seems that you have broken both of your legs!! It’s only a matter of time before you die!!”

“As soon as you break the mirror, shards of glass fly through the air and slice into your body!! Blood pours from your wounds and your body slumps to the floor.”

“As you swim toward the skeleton, you feel the jaws of the shark grab you and pull you under. You curse yourself for using your body as bait!! Even before the life has escaped your body, the lake will be filled with your blood.”

“Kneeling down next to the fountain, you drink a handful of the acidic water. You can’t scream because you no long have a throat, let alone a larynx!!”

..Yeah, and some pretty blunt stuff for the time too, considering Nintendo’s strict censorship in the early years.

I mentioned in my review of the novelization of Mega Man II how Scholastic would censor the cover art from the game when transitioning game cover to book cover. If campy robots and lasers blasts from that game needed editing, you can bet Shadowgate is gonna get the Disney treatment, big time…


See, just nub the tail a bit and airbrush away the small horns and it’s a completely different cover!

I love this – it’s like if they took Diablo and removed one severed head from The Butcher’s room and left the rest of the ocean of guts there strewn across the place! Basically, poor Zuul here got neutered for no reason at all. Well now, okay, you may be thinking that the game is awesome and could easily offer substantial material to lend itself to becoming a fairly decent novel of a hero’s quest through a dangerous, trap-filled castle given the right author is put to the task.

………. stand up and stretch. …Take a nice break, maybe hit the bathroom or get a snack. I’ll wait.



Alright, well, again as a prequel, the castle is anything but the main setting in the book, so scrap the puzzles, the sphinx’s riddles, the pitfalls, and other token elements you’ve come to know and love. Also, Scholastic’s ghostwriter of choice here will be Ellen Miles. If you remember, she penned the very patronizing novelization for Mega Man II (though granted, it was intended for even younger readers than usual for the Worlds of Power audience).


One of the F.X. Nine crew

I’m not saying she’s a bad author in any way, shape, form, or fashion, but when your claims to fame are the series Puppy Place and Kitty Corner… well, then tackling something so far on the other end of the spectrum may be a bit more miss than hit.

– Again, for the sake of comparison…

“Suddenly, the beasts begin to shudder and their eyes begin to glow red!! The gargoyles, angered by your presence, spring from their frozen state and rip you to pieces!! There’s not enough left of you to even feed the birds.”


“With the speed of lightning, the Wyvern wraps its tail around your neck. You die, screaming silently.”


“You catapult yourself off the platform. You are brave, warrior, but stupid! Your body explodes as you plunge into the lava.”

Although an established author, it will soon be painfully obvious that Ms.Miles has never once played Shadowgate, but there is hope. In prepping to put Before Shadowgate together, she did collaborate with the masterminds themselves –


Karl Roelofs and Dave Marsh

Karl Roelofs and Dave Marsh – without these two, there would be no Deja Vu, no Uninvited, and no Shadowgate (among others). I can’t count how many times I’ve died freakishly awful digital deaths at the hands of these guys and loved every second of it. Mood, music, and macabre – with a touch of sick humor – are all blended perfectly through their genius. So, we have our author and the guidance of some of the O.G.’s of 80’s point-and-click adventure. Open to page one…… Will we get a spooky, mind-bending adventure or something that seems like it’s been thrown up on by a Renaissance Faire?


Could be worse…

(Next Bits of the Past we’ll get into the meat of the book – fenling sidekicks, dindin fruits, general bickering, Hobbit/LOTR comparisons, vague prophecies, and the planet Tyragon… :smh:.)


Michael A. Jones

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Twitter: MikeAJones@NerdsintheBurbs