The Average Gamer

Matt Birch: “Shadow of the Beast is incredibly special to me”

Shadow Of The Beast - LogoAway from the public show floors at gamescom 2013 a number of Indie developers were showing off and talking about their games; titles like Murasaki Baby, Resogun and Hohokum. Before, at their gamescom media briefing Sony surprised everyone by showing a trailer for a Shadow of the Beast on PlayStation 4 and at this indie event I was about to hear the story of how a small development house is bringing this iconic Amiga title to Sony’s latest console.

Matt Birch works for a development company called Heavy Spectrum. To date they’ve released two PlayStation Mobile (PSM) games called Puzziball and Bullion Blitz which you might have played already.

Crucially, these games allowed them to work with Sony XDev who are pivotal to Matt’s story.

Now, most of you probably aren’t old enough to remember playing the first Shadow of the Beast game as it was developed a long, long time ago by Reflections who are now part of Ubisoft and co-developing Watch Dogs and The Crew. It really wasn’t a fun game either as the gameplay was extremely basic and very unforgiving (trust me, I played it a lot!) but it did look amazing with its 12 levels of parallax scrolling backdrops. But Birch remembers it fondly.

He said “Shadow of the Beast is incredibly special to me. Back in time to 1989. I was 16 years old and pulled up this game on the Amiga and I was transfixed. My friend and I we used to spend hours talking about how did this world work?

  • Who lives in this airship?
  • How did this giant die in this cave guarding the key when he was too big to fit through the entrance?
  • Why are there jet thrusters underground?”

Shadow of the Beast - Amiga

“Today, designers go to great lengths to explain every single detail because they’ve mapped it all out into a intricate web. It’s incredibly immersive and I love those games. But this game did something to me which was truly special. This game engaged my imagination and that’s something that we’d like to bring to gamers today.”

Birch then approached XDev at Sony. “We explained that vision of engaging players imaginations combined with a unique combat mechanic was what we’d like to make. To our surprise they said ‘this sounds great.’ I think it’s a testament to Sony’s dedication and commitment to the ideal that they are actually prepared to let a tiny studio like ours look at an IP like this.”

Here’s the teaser trailer that leaves us with a loads of questions about the new game. Is it going down the Dynasty Warriors of Golden Axe route? Will Roger Dean (cover artwork) and Tim Wright (music) who worked on the original Shadow of the Beast games be involved and what’s a likely release date?

I think Birch is still pinching himself over all this and he maybe the happiest developer on the planet right now. Good luck to him too. He may just make the first Shadow of the Beast game with decent gameplay and one that most people will be able to get past the second level.

Shadow of the Beast is coming to PlayStation 4