Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Shadow Complex

Review: Shadow Complex

1:00 PM on 08.19.2009 // Nick Chester

Chair Entertainment's Shadow Complex is out today on Xbox LIVE Arcade for 1200 MS Points, or 15 American dollars. It's a "Metroidvania"-style side-scroller, heavily influenced by Super Metroid. You blow a lot of things up, and get a lot of cool gadgets in the process.

Not sold on it yet? How's this: There's a review after the jump, but in the time it could take you to read it, you could have already downloaded Shadow Complex and started playing it. There, I said it -- go buy Shadow Complex. Yes, I think it's that good. 

But if you want more words, or need more convincing, hit the jump.

Shadow Complex (Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Developer: Chair Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Released: August 19, 2009

In Shadow Complex, you play as Jason, just some normal guy on a nice hike with some girl through some woods that lead to some underground facility and -- oh no! That girl has been kidnapped! Good thing you’re not really just any normal guy... your dad’s a military man, so you’ve got some fighting chops. Or something. I’m not quite sure, to be honest with you -- Shadow Complex’s narrative isn’t its strong suit, despite the fact that it’s based in the universe of Orson Scott Card’s Empire.

The fact that the game only hints that it will deliver a compelling plot (but then never really does), is secondary to the desire you’ll have to run, jump, and climb from one area to next so you can find your next weapon or suit upgrade. Or take out the next gigantic enemy walker with a combination of a foam gun and rockets. Just writing about it makes me want to do it again. Right now. 

As a modern-day take on side-scrolling action games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Shadow Complex not only holds its own, but makes some great strides to bring the formula up to date with immaculate polish and visuals. The basics are the same: the game presents players with a huge map to explore with much of it closed off until certain criteria are met, such as obtaining a jet pack boost ability or defeating a boss.

At the start, Jason is mostly empty-handed, save for a flashlight. As you explore the game’s world -- and you’ll be doing plenty of that -- you’ll gradually find upgrades to your abilities, allowing you to access more of the map. You’ll also gain experience for defeating enemies and unearthing new parts of the map, which boosts things like health and stamina. As with most games of this type, the experience is both satisfying and addicting. Chair very obviously and carefully crafted how and when you’ll receive your upgrades; you’ll easily get lost in the hunt and your desire to discover uncharted territory and pick up fresh items.

Fortunately, the act of moving Jason around and taking out enemies simply feels good and spot-on in your hands. While the game is rendered using the Unreal Engine 3.0 in 3D, all movement is done on a 2D plane. There are a few spots where controls feel a tad imprecise; Jason may get caught on a ledge or a wall while jumping, for instance. It may also take a while for your brain to adjust to the 2D movement in a 3D environment, but it won’t take long before you get a feel what you can and what you can’t make Jason do.

Combat in Shadow Complex is simple but effective, and fun, with guns and other gadgets mapped to the right trigger. While you’ll be fighting many enemies on the 2D plane, some will attack from above, below, or even the environment’s background. Pulling the right trigger will fire straight ahead, with slight auto-aim adjusting based on your surroundings. The right analog stick can be used to aim more accurately.

Admittedly, the aim is sometimes off -- the aim-assist feature, indicated by a laser scope attached to all of the game’s guns, sometimes won’t find your intended target. Some firefights can and do feel a bit random, more luck than actual skill. However, it never turned into a problem, the results of the gunfire -- massive barrels exploding, enemies rag-dolling over banisters or falling off cliffs -- always worth any trouble. Up close and personal melee attacks (merely accomplished with the press of the B button), are a blast to perform, too; the animations are varied enough, as seeing Jason punch a dude in the back in the head never really gets old.

Playing on the default difficulty mode, Shadow Complex isn’t particularly challenging. While some of the “boss” battles are tricky, the in-game map makes exploring the world -- especially when it comes to your main objectives -- a cinch. By default, the game will show you a blue line on the map that will indicate where you’ll need to go next to further the story, which can give the game a linear feel. While the line can be turned off for those who’d rather wander aimlessly, it doesn’t much matter -- chances are you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of the map regardless, charting new territory and looking to pick up 100% of the in-game items.

Also of note is the game’s wicked cool take on stat and achievement tracking. Things like how many enemies you’ve performed a melee attack on or mini spider bots you’ve kicked are tracked, and you’re shown updates as they happen. Taking a page from Burnout Paradise, the game features an on-the-fly leaderboard that will let you know in real time how many headshots you’ve nailed, for instance, versus your friends. It’s a small but awesome feature that could add a few hours to your play time, depending on how many competitive bones you have in your body.

In regards to play time, my first run-through of Shadow Complex took me roughly six or seven hours to complete. This was a casual play-through, as I took my time exploring the world, picking up out-of-the-way items when I felt like it. My second time through, I powered through the game, barely bothering to stop for much of anything; I completed it in a little over three hours. While I’ve yet to get that coveted 100% play-through, it’s not unreasonable to think doing so could kick the game time up by a few hours.

But the Campaign story mode isn’t all there is to see and do, either. There’s also the “Proving Grounds” challenge modes, three sets of them, with each trial tied to its own leaderboard. Roll this into the total gameplay time, you’re looking at another few hours until completion, not even taking into consideration the competitive nature of the leaderboards.

In its slick production, Shadow Complex sets a new and extremely high bar for Xbox LIVE Arcade games. Visually, the game rocks it with Unreal Engine 3.0 visuals that only show small signs of faltering during cut scenes. The game also features a superb soundtrack, from a heart-pounding action score to some haunting classical pieces that offset the mood in beautifully stunning ways.

From a pure quality standpoint, Shadow Complex is as good, if not better, than many games available at retail. But it’s “just” a $15 Xbox LIVE Arcade game, one that could have sold for twice as much, digitally or in a physical box at your local retailer.

You’ve read this far, and I can’t say I didn’t warn you -- you could have (and should have) been spending that time downloading Shadow Complex. So what are you waiting for? Go. 

9.5 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)



THE VERDICT

9.5

Shadow Complex - Reviewed by Nick Chester
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
 Follow Blog + disclosure Tips
Editor-in-Chief @ Destructoid.com nick at destructoid.com  more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Shadow Complex


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Review: Pony Island - Maneiac Crop

The meaning of The Witness (Part 1 of 3)

Do you even Bebop?

Cblogs of 02/04/16 + Bayonetta and some other one I suppose

Waifu Wars: Your Cruel Device, Your Blood Like Ice..

Best Kickstarter implosion EVER as dev money is spent on booze and strippers

Video Gaming Bits -- Dungeons& Dragons: Tower of Doom

Is Planet Earth more than Blue, such as An?

Cblogs of 2-3-16 + Umbra Smash Climax-isms!

Three Of My Favourite Videogame Locations (Part 2)

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Okay, what the hell is Youth Health Mag and why is it always sited as a news source?
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
I changed my avatar. You want to sue me? My lawyers are ready to trademark suing me so you have to pay me first.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
The multiple flavors of the soundtrack found in the options of Crypt of the Necrodancer is one of the coolest things I've ever seen a rhythm game do. Been happily replaying the earlier levels just to see a different artist's take on Danny B's original.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Welp, the steam lunar new year sale got me. By making me get BROFORCE!!!! I feel more patriotic already.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
DICKS! Now that I have your attention why don't you join our [url=https://discord.gg/0koh7AdmqhjF1egd]super unofficial Discord chat room[/url]? No installs required and it is always up. So far no spam, no drama, all fun and chit chat / dank memes.
ShadeOfLight avatarShadeOfLight
I...I think I may have caused the new Steam sale. I didn't buy enough during Christmas time. Now Steam is coming for me. I can feel its breath behind me already. I don't have much time left. Whoever reads this, whatever you do, DON'T LOOK INTO ITS -
SayWord avatarSayWord
This cat from a cat-cafe clearly gives no fucks about being burned alive.
Shinta avatarShinta
Just discovered this today. 2012 album, solo artist writes it all herself. I'm blown away ... this is like my album of the year so far, easily. Listen to this song until the end, it just keeps getting better. Wow.
RenaudB90 avatarRenaudB90
Steam, no, please! Not another sale! I need the money for Fire Emblem!
CatastrophiCreations avatarCatastrophiCreations
We just launched our Super Mario cat wall!
CatastrophiCreations avatarCatastrophiCreations
The PacMan Complex is a massive cat haven which doubles as nerdy wall art. It comes with removable wall vinyls.
FakePlasticTree avatarFakePlasticTree
Nuuuuuuuu---Just realized that Fire Emblem Fates won't be released in my region on February 19th even though that was what my retailer, and the German Amazon, assured me. You even say that..
Shinta avatarShinta
New album 4/8/16. This is track 1 on the album I guess. It's not bad. Not the best Deftones ever, but it's still better than nothing new at all. I still like it.
Torchman avatarTorchman
KONO BAYO DA! WRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
So for Christmas this year my friend did something called Hatesmas where he got us each something we hate. He got me Minions. But I decided to return the favor. Oh yes I did.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
"All war is based on Deception" - Sun Tzu.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
It's Friday! School's out! No work! Witcher 3! HAIL CAESAR tonight! Boston Market! Rainbow Six! Smash! Splatoon! Coffee! Apple crisp! Help! Snow! Please! I can't stop! Kill me!
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
I've come back from the internet and I can't find Rule 34 for Rocket League. Whatever shall I do?
LaTerry avatarLaTerry
http://eu.square-enix.com/en/blog/adventures-mana-released-iosandroid Apparently they've heard the request for the Vita version of Adventures of Mana and are "considering it" in the update at the end of the article.
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
Post some good blogs today, friends.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -