When Shadow Complex was announced a couple months ago, I was somewhat torn by it. It was described as a metroidvania style game, which I like. It's developed by Chair, who made Undertow, which sucked. But the lead designer at Chair also made Advent Rising, which I liked! But Advent Rising and Shadow Complex are based on properties Orson Scott Card is involved in, whom I do not like. The hype coming out of E3 was strong though, and then they released the trailer and I was sold. When was the last time I played a good metroidvania anyway? (Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin)
To put it simply, Shadow Complex sets a new standard for $15 XBLA games. It's a great game. It's clearly more Metroid than Vania, with no currency and a small number of weapons and bosses. It's map and method of impeding progress (doors and what not that require certain weapons to get past) are straight out of Super Metroid while it adds in enemies that you can fight in the background, and a couple of fully 3D turret sequences. The in-game cutscenes are relatively bad because the faces of the characters suffer from Unreal 3 engine syndrome but they're all skippable. The sounds are all spot on and the soundtrack fits great while you're progressing through the early game but towards the end when you're filling up on collectibles it feels a little out of place or it's completely absent.
The amount of detail in the gameworld is staggering for a game that costs so little. If they had given me a solid geometry map with unanimated models I would've been happy so long as the gameplay were the same, but this game is as beautiful as it's gameplay. The controls are very close to Metroid's with the exception of the shooting. It uses the second analog stick for precise aiming, which means taking a thumb off of the jump button. It took just a little to get used to but later I came to appreciate the level of precision I could get using the aiming stick.
I've played through the game once, with 100% map and item completion. I got to probably 90% on my own before resorting to youtube videos on how to get some of the trickier items. There's items in some really sticky areas but never so badly that you feel the designers were being cheap. The ending is wide open for a sequel (or rumored DLC) but doesn't really live up to the build up. After finding all 100% of the items, the final battle was rather simple. I guess that's my reward for persistence. I finished in a little over 8 hours, which is probably more time than I spent playing through the single player campaign of Gears of War 2, and Gears of War 2 isn't nearly as replayable.
Should you buy Shadow Complex? Yes. Double yes. It's a fantastic single player game.