Shadow Complex
Developer: Chair/Epic
Publisher: Microsoft/Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
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If you’re ancient enough, Shadow Complex will bring memories of several classic 2-D platform adventures flooding back, and they’re all good ones. Impossible Mission, Another World, Flashback and the first two Oddworld games were all probably inspiration for Shadow Complex.

Jason Fleming is the reluctant hero—much like Conrad B. Hart from the classic 2-D platform adventure Flashback or Abe from the Oddworld games. On what is supposedly a romantic exploration of a local beauty spot, Jason’s girlfriend is arrested and abducted by some unidentified and heavily armed soldiers, and naturally he wants her back, and so the adventure begins.

Starting out with nothing more than a torch, you explore a secret underground complex and find weapons, gadgets and parts of an awesome hi-tech battle armour suit that you get a brief experience of right at the start of the game. What this brief time with the armour doesn’t let you in on is how clever some of the levels are, or how explosive the action is, or how complex the complex you have to explore is.

The game intersperses quality 3-D cut scenes seamlessly into the 2-D gameplay, and similarly the 2-D levels have plenty of enemies set back into the screen giving the game a remarkably 3-D look and feel. When you realise that you don’t only have to combat shoot enemies from above, below, left or right but also from the background the game takes on a completely different feel. Your weapon also has a secondary fire mode than can be switched between grenades, foam, missiles and the Batman-like grapple hook. “Foam”? You’re probably saying, but yes; as well as immobilising enemies it’s also used to gum up door locks, elevators and fan motors to allow access to new areas, and turns out to be a very clever game element indeed. Without entering into spoiler territory the use of the armour suit’s hyperspeed running capability also throws up some devilishly clever possibilities. Apart from human soldiers of varying toughness there are spider droids patrolling the floors, walls and ceilings of the entire complex, and these can often be shot down so they’ll drop and explode, killing an unsuspecting soldier—very satisfying. You can also boot these dying droids away from you with a timely press of ‘B’ to avoid being hurt by their terminal explosion, which is shown in a close-up animation, and never gets old. Boss battles against spider tanks and choppers crop up regularly, and the final confrontation is a pleasingly imaginative end to the game too.

Shadow Complex provides such an interesting mixture of adventure, platforming, puzzling and out-and-out shooting that it seems churlish to criticise it at all, but I do have some minor complaints. Jason’s movement is very direct and sudden and I’d have preferred the more “realistic” and controlled movement that say, Flashback supplied all those years ago. The weapon aiming also, while adequate, could have been more accurate and despite the right stick being devoted to the independent aiming of your weapon (so you can aim without moving) the 2-D/3-D gameplay means that picking out some enemies in the background can be tricky.

Shadow Complex costs 1200 MS points (currently £10.20/$14.99), and I must say I did balk at its price tag slightly as many quality DLC packs come at 800 MS points or less. But you can’t really go wrong (especially if you’re a fan of the aforementioned 2-D platform adventure classics) because of its lifespan of 9 hours or so (if you don’t run through the game) and more than a little replay value thanks to lots of hidden items and 21 VR-style challenge levels - some of which are devilishly designed. Epic did well to take Chair under their wing and have set an impressive benchmark for XBLA titles with this one.

Best Bits

- Classic 2-D gameplay mixed with quality HD visuals.
- Cool weapons
- Clever levels
Worst Bits

- Twitchy aiming
- Sudden movement makes some platform sections overly tricky

by: Diddly

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