Thursday, 31 March 2011

Game Review - Shadow Complex

Genre: Side-Scrolling Shooter 
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade (1200 Points)
Developer: Chair Entertainment Group

I've made so many references to this game over the past few Blogs, that it was inevitable that I base a review on it. 

"Press Start!"

When you first begin to play Shadow Complex, you will notice similarities to classic games like Super Metroid, Castlevania: SOTN and a hint of stealth √† la mode of Metal Gear Solid.

Its is by no means derivative in its imitation of these great games. 
Chair have taken the model and pushed it further. Even the story is compelling. 
Developed by Peter David (who writes Marvel's Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, X-factor and also wrote on Star Trekand based on the work of author Orson Scott Card, Shadow Complex runs parallel to his novel "Empire".

You play as Jason Fleming -

Who? Me?
What? No! 

Not Jason Flemyng! Jason FleMING

Featuring the voice talents of Nolan North
A capable protagonist forced to infiltrating a hidden base in the rocky American wilderness to rescue his new girlfriend Claire (talk about a bad first date) from the clutches of 'The Restoration', a secret rebel Military group. 

It soon becomes clear that Jason is a bit more than your average joe, taking out armed guards with a flurry of fists and kicks. 

"Eat boot, Evil dooer!"

Although he starts the game armed only with climbing gear and a flashlight as soon as he gets his hands on a weapon we are treated to a cut-scene explaining why he is so tough. 
I won't spoil the plot for everyone. Buy the game! 

Originally I played the game to completion in August, 2009. 
I had another play through this month just to familiarize myself with what impressed me so much about this ambitious 'Xbox Live Arcade' game. 

"Extreme jump!"

By no means is it perfect, there is clipping on some areas of scenery and I have died in some interesting and amusing ways. 
But it has always been fun. I have never been frustrated by the challenges and have never become bored by the level of difficulty. 

When you break it down, the challenge of the game really is how fast you can get the drop on your opponents, whether by stealth or firepower. 

But that statement really doesn't do Shadow Complex justice. There is a set path, but there are so many avenues to take. You may enter the same room through an entirely different route, via air-vents or across the ceiling by the means of the 'Hook' attachment. 

The Mechs act as Boss Fights

And you will find yourself exploring these routes obsessively to obtain the 'Omega Armour
(sounds good, right?). As long as your into back tracking ;D

The map of the complex is huge!

There are also several types of items to collect to improve your odds against your enemies. 

These range from weapons, health and armour upgrades, to gold bars and key cards.

Each weapon upgrade is assigned a specific colour which denotes the areas of scenery it can be used upon. But the catch is that they can only be seen with the flashlight.

The 12 key cards allow you to access the vault containing the aforementioned 'Omega Armour'. 

Each Key Card disables a laser field obstructing Jason from his prize

The Omega Armour! Da Da Daaaaa!
The overall pacing of the game is well tuned and never hinders your curiosity to explore the map. 
The controls are simple to grasp and feel very responsive. Although sometimes a prompt to melee can be missed and you occasionally get caught ledge-hanging in the midst of a firefight these blips never detract from the whole enjoyment of playing.

The transition from ground to water is well polished, not surprising when you consider Chair's earlier 'XBLA' release 'Undertow

(Here is a review for Undertow)

One additional feature Shadow complex has is the inclusion of a 'Proving Grounds', where players can test out the entire control system, weapon selection and environment quirks before even attempting the actual campaign. 

Rendered in a white box styled series of levels, it has a certain affinity with the 'VR Training' from 'Metal Gear Solid' but its charm wins out

Without giving away too much of the storyline the scale of your opponents is ever increasing. And the method in which you effectively dispatch them is attuned to your latest acquisition. 
How you choose to combine all theses newly acquired items is up to you.

I hope that was vague enough not to spoil the game for those who have yet to play it :)


I don't believe in rating games, simply for the fact that what I like might put others off. 
It is all subjective.
All I can say is that I enjoyed this game to its end and far longer afterwards. It is one of, if not the best 'XBLA' game to date. 
And in my opinion, was a strong rival for 'AAA' titles in the summer of 2009.

So that is a 9.9 \{>.<}/ if you were wondering.

Thanks for reading!


Here are a few Bonus Features

Author Orson Scott Card commenting on Shadow Complex

Creative Director Donald Mustard interview at the GDC 2010

Shadow Complex Wallpaper 1920 x 1200
The prototype map plotted out by the Chair's creative team

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