When I first heard about Shadow Complex, I just heard it was a game from Epic (makers of Gears of Wars). I said okay. Then I heard it was a 2D platformer shooter. My interest was piqued. Then I heard it was very much in the style of Super Metroid. At this point I wanted to subscribe to all and any newsletters and blogs regarding the subject. When I heard that the developers all played Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion before starting, I was enraptured. When the game finally came out at the end of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade, I played the crap out of it and beat it in a matter of days. Few games have captured my attention and time like this one has.
Shadow Complex is a game entirely based on exploration, power-ups, and shooting mans in a base. The story of Shadow Complex is supposed to take place in the universe of Orson Scott Card’s novel Empire. While this may be true (there is not much tie in to the novel), story is not something you are going to get a lot of from the game. Some people like this, but when you are shooting armed guards in a base before unfolding the their evil generic plot to take over the United States, you don’t have much empathy toward your character. But when playing the game you will most likely have only one interest: finding ways to be come more powerful. By the end of the game you are a juggernaut of pain – that is what makes the game awesome.
The game is in 2D, but rendered in 3D. This allows for some very awesome graphics, and battles that go into the third dimension. Shooting enemies in the background is seamless as long as you are pointing in their direction. Enemies are pretty generic and there is not a wide variety. The boss fights are also pretty bland and are generally won with plain old brute force as opposed to any tactical prowess.
The game is not so much inspired by Metroid as it is a 3D clone. So if you are looking for originality you aren’t going to find much. In fact, almost every power-up in the game has an equivalent power-up in the Metroid universe. For example, doors and spaces are color coded when shining your trusty flashlight to discover what weapon will open it – just like Metroid. But there are also some things that are unique and fun. Moving with one joystick and aiming with the second allows precision aiming. The foam gun in the game is really cool and unique, but not utilized nearly enough. There are several other differences from Metroid, but ultimately, I’m pretty sure this is what Super Metroid would be if it came out today.
Overall the game is still awesome. While I mentioned that it is completely derivative of Super Metroid, I’m okay with it because Super Metroid was one of the best games of all time. The story is lacking, but you don’t need it too much as you’ll spend most of your time trying to find all the secrets. The last boss is lame, and not energetic at all (pending you found all of the power-ups by the end). But the game is paced well, and is a steal at $15. If you liked anything about Metroid or the Castlevania series, you’ll love this game.