This game isn't standing in anyones shadow
Each generation of consoles have brought forward some form of innovation. The consistent improvements are always graphics and capacity, but during the PS1 era we started to see CD players and eventually DVD players manage to find
their way on our systems. The current generation find their innovation not from hardware but software. Sure the PS3 has a blu-ray player and for some that is enough, but the area that is making the largest strides in recent years are downloadable games. Developers big and small can now take advantage of these opportunities to create some truly memorable IP’s and not have to worry about finding extortionate amounts of money to fund the development of them. Instead we see small, well developed games such as Lost Winds, Pixel Junk Monsters and of course, Shadow Complex, which we would otherwise miss. You should be glad; Shadow Complex is outstanding.
Shadow complex starts with our protagonist (Jason Flemming) on top of a mountain about to do some potholing with a woman he picked up in a bar the night before (Claire). After descending only a short distance into the mountain, Claire is capture by a group of unknown soldiers who proceed to manhandle her through an out of place door. After witnessing this, Jason follows them through and uncovers a conspiracy to throw America in chaos.
The story is actually quite good and has you running from location to location to find and rescue Claire, whilst also finding equipment with which to arm yourself against the countless enemies. It does feel a little clichéd in parts though, and without delving into spoilers, the reasons for your involvement come off feeling flat and convoluted, but for the most part it flows well and gives you suitable reasons for moving across the underground bunker.
For anyone familiar with 2D adventure games such as Metroid or Castlevania then you will feel right at home. The set-up is almost identical to Metroid, even the map. You start out with every weapon and just as you are starting to feel like a complete badass it all gets taken away. Gone. That is until you start the ‘real’ game, where you slowly progress around the map unlocking new weapons and abilities, with some obligatory weapon capacity increases along the way. Each item suits a unique purpose, and the location of each new item is strategically placed so that it becomes a necessity to advance, whether it’s a double jump to reach a previously inaccessible area or a foam gun used to access new areas.
To say this is just like a 2D Metroid game is a little misleading. It would be better to call it a 2.5D homage to Metroid, as in addition to skirmishes on the same plain as you, you can also shoot at enemies who reside in the background. The application of this feature left me with a mixed feelings; the inventiveness and ambition are both impressive, but the
reality of hitting enemies in the background becomes a little awkward when trying to stop and shoot at the same time; if you starting directly in front of the enemy then he will shoot to the sides and not into the background. It never impedes on your progress and only became a nuisance during one of the challenges that you access from the main menu, but should a sequel emerge then I would like to see this issue addressed. It also changes into a 3D environment at certain points; when your character is either in a cut scene or a static position such as using a gun turret. It may not be a revolutionary idea but it’s a nice reminder of just how well crafted the environment is by offering you a new perspective.
Shadow Complex is a great downloadable game, and at only 1200 points it’s well worth the money. If you want something to get at that 2D Metroid itch then this is the right game for you.