Shadow Complex - Xbox Live Arcade

I’ll apologize up front for the 6 of you waiting for this review that it took so long to post. Lack of time and technical issues delayed it longer than I would have liked but here it is and it’s glorious!

The release of Shadow Complex officially marks the end of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade. It’s been a fantastic 5 weeks for sure. I ended up purchasing 4 out of the 5 games (sorry Marvel vs. Capcom 2, I’m just not good at you) and have been very happy with each one, except maybe Turtles, which is merely ok. Shadow Complex has been highly anticipated since its debut at E3 and I have to say the hype is much deserved as it officially tops ‘Splosion Man as my favourite Summer of Arcade release, and that was not an easy task.

Many people (including the developers themselves) have made the comparison between Shadow Complex and Super Metroid, and it becomes apparent why very quickly. SC (that’s how cool people refer to Shadow Complex, or people who don’t feel like typing out the full title each time) is certainly not a complete Super Metroid clone, but it definitely draws a lot of inspiration from it. I have no problem with that, seeing as Super Metroid is one of my favourite games of all time. SC doesn’t beat Super Metroid in the long-run, but it gives it one hell of an effort.

SC is the first (at least I believe it is) attempt at making a “Metroidvania” game on a current gen console and it has already set the bar for anyone else who may take a stab at it in the future. I really don’t see how anyone could improve on it. If anyone is currently trying, I guarantee after playing this they decide “to hell with it, ain’t no way we’re toping that.” This is a fantastic game that like I said before, really deserves to be put up there with the likes of genre classics such as Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night.

You play as Nathan Drake from the Uncharted games as he battles against the forces of well, the Shadow Complex. And no you don’t actually play as Nathan Drake, just a guy who looks, talks, acts and sounds exactly like him. However it’s easy to look past that because well, Nathan Drake is awesome. Plus it makes things a little more interesting if you trick yourself into thinking this is some sort of Uncharted side story.

I will say this about SC (this acronym isn’t going away, might as well get used to it), this sum bitch is HUGE! It’s definitely bigger than Super Metroid and I think I’m going to be bold and say its hands-down one of the biggest games of its kind ever made. Granted I haven’t played the DS Castlevanias so I can’t be certain, but I can’t imagine them being much bigger than this. The map in this game is gigantic. After playing for several hours I was shocked to discover I had barely uncovered half of it. Add on tons and tons of secret items to find, and you have yourself one massive game.

Thankfully traversing the map is not a pain. There are tons of secret shortcuts you can find to cut down on travel time and there are always plenty of bad guys to dispatch in many fun ways. The game is also kind enough to give you a helpful blue line on your map that points you to your next objective and even provides you with the best route there. Of course if you would rather go in blind and add some extra challenge, there is the option to turn the blue line off.

The combat in this game can be accurately summed up in one word: satisfying. There are almost always several ways to go about disposing of the enemies within a room, whether it be running in guns a-blazin’ or maybe something like blowing up the ceiling support on some crates that come crashing down on the enemies’ heads. The game makes great use of ragdoll physics that has enemies flying around and banging off railings and it simply does not get old.

My one gripe with the combat, and this is something I’ve heard from a few places, is that the mechanic of being able to shoot enemies in the background was sometimes a little awkward. For the most part it worked, but there was the occasional instance where I was trying to kill someone in the background but was always shooting the guy across from me, or something similar. Then again, that could simply be user error. Either way, I thought I should at least mention it.

I did find that the boss fights were also a little underwhelming. They were certainly enjoyable, and sometimes the scale of them compared to you is quite impressive, but there was never that much to the battle themselves. Usually just shooting or throwing grenades wildly is more than enough to emerge victorious. One boss battle involving a vertical corridor filling up with water stands out as a highlight, and sort of the final boss, but that’s it really.

My final qualm (is that the word I want? I really hope it means what I think it does) is that the storyline is pretty meh. It’s ok, but it’s not that engaging. I know it ties into a novel written by Orson Scott Card that I’m not familiar with, so maybe reading the book would create a larger investment in the story of the game. As is though, I was never that concerned about what was going on. I think I was more intrigued by the premise than the actual execution. I do believe that is my final complaint about the game, and keep in mind that all the complaints I do have are still pretty minor because seriously, this game is fantastic.

Length seems to be all over the place with this one. I beat the game in around 6:15, with almost all of the map and about 65% of the items found. Another person I talked to beat the game with less items but in around 10 hours, and someone else beat it 3.5 hours with just about everything. So it’s hard to say. It really comes down to how much you take your time and explore, and whether you consult a guide to locate everything, which I recommend against, it ruins the sense of explorations and accomplishment which what these types of games are really about.

Once you beat the game there is plenty of incentive to return, especially if you’re a fan of speed running. There’s leaderboards that track a variety of different stats, achievements that require multiple playthroughs to get a full 200 points, but most of all the game is just that good that you will want to play through it multiple times.

I really don’t know what else to say. This is great game that you absolutely need to play, especially considering its only 15 dollars. You get lots and lots of game here for what you pay and it’s one of the easiest purchase recommendations I could ever make. It’s the perfect way to wrap-up what ended up being a great Summer of Arcade. See you in 2010!