Shadow Complex Xbox 360 Review

September 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – Epic Games – Developer – Chair Entertainment – Genre – Action Adventure – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Super Metroid was released way back in 1994, although even many years later we’re seeing games adopting the brilliance of its design. We’ve seen games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was obviously inspired by Nintendo’s game. It just goes to show that some titles are so well crafted that even years later they are used for inspiration in game design.

Chair Entertainment’s Shadow Complex is another game that owes its existence to Super Metroid, and it’s common knowledge that it was heavily inspired by it, with its developers admiring the masterful design of Samus Aran’s side scrolling adventure. Like that very game, Shadow Complex uses minimal plot: a couple go hiking, the woman gets captured and the man has to rescue her, stumbling across the enemies masterful plot along the way. Indeed, it’s simple but serviceable and a throwback to when game stories were much less developed.

Shadow Complex may have 3D environments and characters, although it’s a side scroller that has you sticking to a single plane, while some of the enemies shoot at you from other planes. Starting with a pistol, you’ll be firing back with an auto-aim, although there’s also a laser-sight to prioritise your targets with. The targeting does feel a little strange though: occasionally it won’t aim where you want it to, which isn’t very helpful when you are trying to take out enemies in the background for example.

As you can see, enemies aren’t exclusively flesh and blood enemies. There’s some big metallic foes to take on, some of which are rather impressive boss encounters.

Jason is Shadow Complex’s protagonist, and as a normal man without any military training, you’ll begin the game with nothing more than a pistol, a torch and Jason’s bare hands. But reaching certain points in the game will turn that pistol into a machine gun and your equipment also expands as you make your way through the brilliantly designed enemy base. Early Jason soon starts to look boring and mundane when you eventually get your hands on an enemy suit, unlocking new abilities, including double and triple jumps, hyper speed, melee attacks that send your enemies shooting across the screen, and more.

Staying with Jason and his equipment, those expecting Shadow Complex’s torch to be a mere source of light will be surprised to learn that it also has its unique uses. Torchlight also reveals what equipment you need to gain access to certain areas: if a vent is lit up green when you shine your torch over it, lobbing a grenade will do the trick to blow a route open, if a door turns purple, you’ll need your foam gun in order to gain access, if something glows red, firing a missile will open the path and so on. But those who know their Castlevania’s and their Metroid’s will already know that you won’t have access to all this equipment straight from the off, with said equipment expanding as you find it throughout the base.

The base is huge in size and has plenty of secrets for you to find by going off the main path. There’s, amongst others, health and equipment (increasing the number you carry of your grenades, foam and missiles) upgrades to seek out, and you may see some of these upgrades hiding in a corner somewhere, although you may not be able to grab them until you have the tool to open a direct route. Exploring the map and hoping to find as many of the hidden pick-ups as possible is certainly as enjoyable as any Metroid or Castlevania game. With the latter said, it would be rude not to explore Shadow Complex’s sizeable base, and such exploration also obviously has its benefits – improving Jason’s health and the number of objects that he can carry at any one time.

Speaking of improvements, you also earn experience points by killing enemies, finding pick-ups and exploring the playing location. Levelling up will improve Jason’s accuracy and agility, and it’s possible to go all the way up to level 50, with every ten levels giving you something more special such as health upgrades or an unlimited amount of ammo for one of your secondary weapons. Your level carries over in each new play through, which is all well and good as getting to the maximum level 50 isn’t going to happen in a single play through for most of us. If you’re wondering, it took me 10 hours to get from the start to the end of the campaign first time around, although this time can be halved if you don’t get lost as often as I did.

The base doesn’t really divert from these colours that often, although it still has plenty of variation throughout, and, at times, you’ll even be swimming to get from one place to another.

Besides the campaign, there’s also the Proving Grounds challenge mode. This presents you with various challenges, such as getting to the end of a stage as fast as possible, tossing grenades in pipes, ascending heights and more. It’s a great mode and is added value to the impressive amount of content that the campaign already gives you. It’ll have fans coming back to better their scores in order to beat not only your own personal scores, but also the scores of others on the online leaderboards.

The production values are certainly most impressive. The visuals are some of the best you can currently find on Xbox Live Arcade, with some excellent lighting, attractive explosions and fluid animations (the enemy death ragdoll physics are satisfying and often amusing) and there’s little to distant the game from an ordinary boxed release.

Shadow Complex is a side scrolling action adventure that is well worth its asking price. It’s a game that seemingly pleads with you to explore the entire enemy facility, and it’s so well designed that it made me want to see as much as possible of it. Is Shadow Complex one of the finest games to grace Xbox Live Arcade? It most certainly is, and fans of Metroid and Castlevania won’t be disappointed with Chair Entertainment’s tremendous effort.