Developer: DC True
Publisher: DC True
Format: MS-DOS (Abandonware Copy)
Released: February, 1993
At a time when it looks like the election for the presidency of the United States being very much a two horse race between a literal douche and the resurrection of Hitler, it seemed like it was inevitable for me to play DC True’s Shadow President. That, and because I could potentially lump this review in with all the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton clickbait.
The first of only two titles from the developer, Shadow President sees the player become president of the United States during the early 90s allowing you to guide the nation through the end stages of the cold war, through operation desert shield (the first one) and potentially through your own version of history beyond. If you’re not interested in that it’s cool because you can just nuke the shit out of any country in the world or even encourage military spending in Ireland to build possibly the worst alliance known to man.
Upon first boot you will be greeted to a blue screen with white text which, if this is your first time booting a DOS game, you may have the same reaction I did and assume you just got a blue screen of death. Luckily, I read the text onscreen and realized that this is the opening screen for Shadow President and involves a pre-game test. I was greeted to a historic quote which, I learned later, have been delightfully titled “Power Quotes” by the online community. As is the trend for a lot of these DOS games, it instructs you to go to your manual for the answer. Cue the panic as I frantically search Google for anything resembling a PDF filled with quotes from Shadow President. My search had everything from conspiracies to plain old racism but not one came close to what I needed. Using all my guile and intuition I decided to give up… is what I would be saying if I was a lesser man. I cranked up my best brain and Googled the quote I was faced with.
“Bingo! I’m in!” I exclaim while cracking my knuckles for the full 90s effect.
The game opens to what I can only describe as 5 – or so – tone image of half a face (I think). I’m not sure about a lot of this image; I still haven’t decided if this person is wearing glasses but I am 60% sure it’s a dude and about 40% sure it’s an older dude at that. Also he has the world in his eye – I see what you did there DC True (I’m not even sorry). There’s also a white and red border around the face which I presume is meant to resemble a portion of the American flag but instead gives the whole thing a more barbershop appeal. Did I mention there’s no menu. You see this splash screen and bam you’re in.
…Right into a text heavy tutorial for the next 15 minutes. Oh joy! There’s nothing sexier than being lead through a serious of onscreen buttons followed by white text prompts on a puke green background. If I didn’t already have glasses I certainly would’ve required them after surving this. The tutorial breezes through screens full of stats and the classic imagery stats – you know the ones; here is a developed city, it’s developed because it has large buildings – and I love them. The old school representations of data through horrendously pixelated imagery warms my soul. It’s just a pity that they’re few and far between.
The tutorial leads straight into the onset of desert shield. Those dirty Iraqis are too ‘ambitious’ which is not only a statement but is also Shadow President’s statistic way of saying they’re looking for some good-time war. Naturally my first act after been given access to the multiple available menus was to find the nuclear option. I challenge whoever plays this not to go to this menu first. In fact, I double dare you not too. As I prepped my nukes I was given the option to get some advice from various cabinet members who are available for general advice throughout play and can also advise on specific actions such as the aforementioned nuking. In a shocking turn of events my ministers piled up against me to inform me that I would be mad to nuke Iraq and that the consequences would be far reaching. “Don’t they know who I am?” I proclaimed. I’m the motherfucking president of 90s America. I’ll do as I please. And also bitches love nukes.
I give the command and I’m told by my military adviser that he’ll inform me when the strike is ready. I wait patiently as in-line hours pass in a matter of seconds. Then it appears. I begin to sweat. The dark box on screen looms before me. Within lies a simple message that I gracefully ignore and two buttons; ‘Cancel’ and ‘Do It’. I slowly move my hand and observe the mouse graciously glide towards the ‘Do It’ button. I carefully orchestrate my index finger to depress the left mouse.
The next few moments are spent in awe as the smallest resolution video begins to play.
Behold the majesty:
I included some cheery music to make us all feel better.
The final death toll is tallied up and shortly afterwards the world begins to turn on me, one by one but not before I’m met with possibly the most confusing mess of stats. I’m presented with the effects of my nuclear strike in an executive summary. Confused I click out as quickly as I entered. Russia is the first to announce their disdain followed quickly by China and then France, because, ya know, France was totally in cahoots with the commies. I guess like many U.S. Presidents I didn’t really expect what happened next to happen as France began to launch nukes aimed at the greatest soil in the world, American.
2 million dead Americans later and only 30% of my cabinet remaining – one left after I hit Iraq with my sexy nukes and the others died from the French nuke – I knew what I had to do. Bomb the surrender monkeys! 4,999 nukes flew over the Atlantic (that previous video ran again) and France felt the full power of my wrath. I unleashed the maximum amount of nukes I could in one strike.
At this point my poll ratings had tanked to about 12%. To compare that’s currently the rating for Gods of Egypt on Rotten Tomatoes (observe the shit trailer). Canada decided they wanted to moan about my nuclear habits so more nukes flew followed by a handful of surgical strikes. This later backfired when radiation began drifting into my beloved states and poisoned my ratings further. I feel it’s worth mentioning that every interaction you have with or make with another country results in a 3-5 second gap of an ‘incoming message’ pop up and flashing countries impacted, which I admit was necessary due to the hard to follow world map, but frustrating too. For some bizarre reason they decided to include rivers on the world map. To clarify, except for oceans (and boundaries of countries, of course) these are the only geographical feature shown. To make matters worse the country borders are the same colour as said rivers. Why DC True? Please help me understand! As a side, the DC stands for Dreams Come… I don’t even need to poke fun.
From this point on my experience was a slow grind of stat reading followed by pesky pop ups of nations declaring their hate accompanied by threats and attacks. My best efforts to learn the game were more or less stunted. The unforgettable 30 minute reign of Reyce was winding down. My time was at an end – And I was getting tired of being harassed – my adventures were soon to be lost forever, likes tears in the rain.
I will say this about Shadow President, for a 23 year old game, it offers quite a bit of management options and contains features we still don’t always see today (*cough tutorials cough paradox interactive cough*). The game is still relatively accessible with tools tips available for every item, though the data dump stat screens and consistent messaging can wear on even the most patient of minds. All in all, my time as president was relatively pleasant and I would probably label my career as a resounding success story, shoeing how the world can unite in times of need. Though this type of game has been surpassed by more detailed titles there is some charm to be found in the high level scale on display. I just hope you like some hideous menu displays.
My retro review score: