Shadow Complex Remastered


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Complete Review & Description

Jason and Claire embark on a date by hiking through a cave in the Pacific Northwest. Things take a turn for the worse when the couple stumbles upon a secret lair that would make Dr. No jealous. There are massive mechs, an army of henchmen and nuclear weapons. As soon as Jason inadvertently reaches the front door of the fortress, Claire is kidnapped. It’s up the everyman to save the day.

It’s no secret that Shadow Complex for the Xbx Live Arcade, shamelessly cribs from the earlier “Metroidvania/Castleroid” games, right down to the identical save rooms, 2D movement and obstacles that can only be surpassed by acquiring new abilities. Still, it refines the formula and surpasses its predecessors. Gone are the otherworldly space locales and familiar haunted castle. Shadow Complex brings the sub-genre into modern times with equally modern shooter sensibilities.

Instead of whips, crosses and ice beams, Jason uses guns, rocket launchers and grenades. The fast pace of the fights, complete with headshots and explosions, is similar to first-person shooters but the playing field is limited to 2D (with some enemies appearing in the background). Unlike Shadow Complex’s predecessors, there’s a varnish of visual polish, with larger-than-life mechs, detailed characters and a beautiful mixture of industrial environments with lush nature. Consider it a thinking man’s Contra with the bombastic score of a Hollywood action film.

The fighting is limited to satisfying – yet brief – chunks. The rest of the game comes down to linear exploration. Early in the game, Jason, the reluctant hero, wears jeans and a backpack while wielding a pistol. Soon, he acquires an experimental battle suit and gradually unlocks abilities like super speed, double (and triple) jumping, along with an increased arsenal. In the grand tradition of the genre, all these abilities are designed to overcome obstacles and get to previously inaccessible areas.

Other games implement uninteresting abilities with little practical use aside from advancing the game, but they’re also a lot of fun to use here. The fusion dampener makes Jason run at super speeds, barrel through enemies and even float on water. Boosting around with the jet pack, which eventually allows triple jumps, is also a lot of fun. The rocket launchers and grenades are most basic, but they’re practical in combat and often used.

If there’s one thing this action/adventure subgenre always offers are memorable boss battles. If there is a fault for Shadow Complex, it’s that most of the boss battles – all of which involve large mechs – are mostly forgettable. There’s one great fight in a huge room with rising water, but aside from that most of the fights don’t push the envelope.

The complaints about the boss battles are minor since the rest of Shadow Complex is so taut and polished. Even with a lot of exploration, the game clocks in at about six hours. Leaderboards and character levels that can be carried over multiple playthroughs extend the life a bit, as does a series of time challenges accessible from the main menu and a number of hidden upgrades scattered throughout the game. The game is so good that I hope developers start borrowing elements from Shadow Complex.



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