Review by FakeKraid

"Worth what it costs, which is more than most games can boast"

I am a low-score reviewer. Keep that in mind when you note my 7 out of 10. I only give a 10 out of 10 to true legends.

I'm not going to lie. Shadow Complex was one of the reasons I got an XBox 360 over a Playstation 3. A small reason, but still one of them. I'm not going to bother listing the others, which are irrelevant, but I mention the fact to indicate that I had high expectations for the game. Realistic, but high. The game met them, largely.

Graphics - 8/10

It took me some time to get used to SC's graphics. I've played plenty of 3D-2D games before (I'm an old pro at Super Smash Bros. games, for one thing), but for some reason, it just took me more time than usual to acclimate myself to the perspective of this game. So much of the apparent terrain is actually irrelevant foreground or background that it can be difficult at first to distinguish what actually matters and what does not. But apart from that moderate problem, the graphics are quite good. The game uses the illustrious "Unreal" engine, which means detailed and crisp textures, smooth movement, and virtually no glitches. The art is a little blase, in the sense that the characters and settings are not extremely original and artistically compelling, but they are without exception competent and clear, and they never bore the eye or become so busy that they interfere with gameplay (except for the issue I mentioned earlier). The different areas of the Complex all look, well, different, which is important in a Metroidvania game. It gives a larger feel to the map, which is good, because SC's map is not that big, in fact,

Sound - Good Enough/10

I hate reviewing sound. There are really only three possibilities for music - either it is terrible, and detracts from the game, or it is beautiful, memorable, and perfectly suited to the game, or else it falls in between those two extremes and is basically unnoticeable. Shadow Complex's music is the lattermost - it does the job, but you won't find yourself humming it for weeks after you play it.

As for the sound effects and voice acting, pretty much the same. They are both competent, but they do not rise above the call of duty to become outstanding. Perhaps that is a good thing...

Controls - 7/10

The game controls well. If you are an experienced gamer, you will have the hang of them an hour into the game, and they will never cause you trouble except in rare cases. I have only a couple of minor complaints. For one thing, the aiming mechanism of the game can get a little clumsy at times. Since enemies will appear in both the foreground and background, the controls have to calculate the Z-axis of your fire automatically. That is, your character will aim toward or away from the screen automatically if there is an enemy that falls outside the plane of play in the direction you are holding.

Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes, you will be frustrated as an enemy fires on you with impunity while you furiously try to point your gun in the right direction to make the Z-axis work. Or else you will persistently fire at harmless obstacles instead of your intended target. Or else you will have an impossible time finding a clear path of fire past the obstacles that are in the background. Or...

I am making it sound worse than it is. Such moments are pretty rare, but they suck when they occur.

As for the rest, running, jumping, etc, they are sufficient, but not outstanding. Do not expect anything on the level of Super Metroid. Think more like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.

Level Design - 6/10

This may look like a bleak rating. It's not so bad. It's just seems like they could have done so much more than they did with this game. Enemies, for instance: there are four distinct types of soldiers. Basic grunts with some kind of gun similar to one of yours, advanced grunts with chain guns and grenades, missile grunts with shields, and spy grunts with grapples and grenades. Okay so far, but...they all look and act similarly, and other than varying levels of caution, there really aren't any different tactics you need to adopt to face them. Especially once you really start to power up. There are also some robots to fight, both little ones (which vary only in what sort of projectile, if any, they fire at you) and big ones, which vary for the most part only in the amount of time you have to spend shooting their undersides.

It's not unbearably monotonous - don't get me wrong - but they could have done more. Much more.

As for the stage design, there's good and bad. More good than bad, I guess. The complex varies considerably in its terrain, from caves with vaulted ceilings filled with water and providing wonderful opportunities for walljumping and suchlike, and cramped factories filled with hazards and secret passages, perfect for stealth and tactical combat. Each powerup you get changes the feel of the different areas, not only by opening up new areas, but changing the dynamic of ones you could already access. Especially the Hookshot (yes, they call it that) and the Friction Dampener (read: Speed Booster). By the end of the game the various passages are still tricky enough in areas to give you a sense of space without making it an insufferable task to get from one side of the map to another. If I have any serious complaint, it would be that the element of exploration is maybe just a little too simple. Not that some of the items aren't cleverly hidden, or at least hard to successfully reach, but, well, I had collected 99% of them by the end of my first run-through. Come on, Chair. There have been enough Metroidvania games by now that you can safely do some pretty devious stuff. We expect it. Nobody got the good ending of Cave Story on the first run-through...

Finally, the game could be more challenging. Not that it's not good and hard at the start, mind you, but your character becomes more powerful much faster than the enemies do. And stays that way. By the end of the game, especially if you have the Fusion Helmet, nothing can touch you. It's a little boring searching for the last few items, frankly.

The challenge stages, in my opinion, have little to offer that the main game does not, but it's nice that they're there, I suppose. I don't think they'll add much replay, but if you like silly online competitions, they're alright. Enjoy them if you can.

Plot - Doesn't Matter/Who Cares

'Nuff said. You won't notice it, and you won't miss it.

Overall - 7/10

Shadow Complex is not Legend. Do not look for Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night in this game. But it is not total crap, either. It is not especially original (in fact, it is glaringly derivative at times), but it is well-crafted within its limits, and it will not disappoint you if you keep your expectations realistic. Shadow Complex will entertain you while you play it, if you like games like Shadow Complex. That sounds like cold praise, but keep in mind that as far as I'm concerned, most games nowadays don't reach that level. It is is fully worth the $15 you must spend on it, and that's a pretty good deal. I very much look forward to Chair's future offerings; if they are capable of this, then they are capable of more. It is to be hoped they try for it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/02/10

Game Release: Shadow Complex (US, 08/19/09)

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