The people at Chair Entertainment and Epic Games must have had their Super Nintendo hooked up when they were thinking of this game. Inside it was a copy of the classic game Super Metroid. While they were in Brinstar battling Kraid, a thought shot through their minds; they need to team up and create a game just like this. And thus Shadow Complex was born. And I'm here to tell you: it's great.
Taking from events from The Empire Duet by Orson Scott Card, Jason Flemming and Claire, a girl he just picked up the other night, decide to go spelunking in a cave. Claire is soon kidnapped and Jason Flemming decides to be the hero and rescue the damsel in distress. However he has inadvertently stumbled upon a plot to overthrow the entire U.S. government. It's now solely up to him to save the girl and the country while he's at it.
Let's get this out of the way. If you are a fan of the Metroid series, then this is the game for you. The game mechanics follow Super Metroid to a T. From the massive amounts of hidden items to the new weapon and suit upgrades that open up once inaccessible passages, this game has it. Even the map changes colors in the areas you have already visited like Super Metroid. As soon as you turn it on to play, this entire game feels like homage and it works. The gameplay back then was critically acclaimed and it's still fun to play today.
The graphics here are astounding. Detail was given to each room and outer structure. Explosions are rendered with great quality and character models are quite impressive. Also the gameplay graphics are what are also used for the game cutscenes and when the character models are shown close up they look just as good. Time and effort were put into creating this property and it shows. It is amazing how this good looking of a game is only an XBLA title.
The progression of the game is very much linear. You are given an objective to achieve and it's usually achieved by gaining access to a room with a new suit upgrade or new weapons to equip that opens a new path. And once that is achieved, you are then instructed to move on to the next one and so on and so forth. For those that could easily get lost in this game, a handy objective tool draws out your path with a blue line to the goal, but to the more hardcore Metroid veterans, this function can be turned off and you can find the path yourself.
And while this game is linear, as anybody who has played Super Metroid, you know that the game can be broken. This is made possible by one of the most unique weapons in a game today. During the course of the adventure, Jason will get his hands on an upgrade called the Foam Gun. With this, the rules of the game have changed. The foam gun can be used to create makeshift bridges to access some things that couldn't normally be reached. If players are creative, they can essentially reach areas they shouldn't be able to reach at the time. The foam gun can also be used in connection with other weapons such as grenades to create sticky bombs. This invention alone can add to the replay value of the game. If you are into creating speed runs, you can utilize this weapon along with some creative thinking to make some pretty fast completion times.
The story telling is actually nicely done. However, there are a few details in the plot that weren't fully expanded upon. While the main story of saving the girl and uncovering and stopping a massive conspiracy is fleshed out, there are some personal flashbacks that Jason has that could of used a little more fleshing out.
The game also utilizes 2.5D graphics. The entire game, you will run on a 2D plain, but there are times where Jason will have to shoot into the background to get a few enemies. This is where the game misses at times. The game will at times not recognize that you are trying to shoot into the background, and will just continue to shoot forward, while he is getting pelted with bullets. It gets rather frustrating at times. There were also some clipping issues where Jason would partially go into a wall.
There are also some issues with character recognition in the game. There would be times when I would be right in front of an enemy and it would just stand there and look at me. This is a broken aspect of the game that hurt it a little bit that it wasn't fixed.
If you get through the main story and still feel the need to continue playing, Shadow Complex has a mode called Proving Grounds. Here, you can train using the powers you will acquire in the game and also try your hand a few challenge maps. They range from such task such as lobbing grenades into hoops to making a fast track time by using the Friction Dampener (think of them as Samus' Speed Boosters). It's basically a series of time trial events, so if you enjoy those, you'll love these.
Shadow Complex is perhaps one the best games to come out on Xbox Live Arcade. This could have easily ended up being a retail game. It looks great, it plays great. It's just downright…..great. At $15, you'll be getting this for a steal. Pick this game up now. You will not be disappointed.