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Review: Shadow Complex


I’ve talked a lot about Xbox Live Arcade since I started this blog.  The reason was because sometimes it’s nice to play something simple and straight-forward and also save a bunch of money that you would have spent on a full title.  That being said, how about a game that offers the experience of a full-priced title for $15?  Enter Shadow Complex, the newest completed project from Cliff Bleszinski who we all know has been behind blockbusters like Gears of War and Unreal Tournament.  

You control Jason Flemming, an everyman who wanted nothing more than to go cave exploring with his newfound squeeze, Claire.  I’m not big on wasting two paragraphs on exposition so let’s just say Claire gets kidnapped by an evil organization who plans to kill the vice president, bomb San Francisco, and we’re assuming take over the world.  Jason sets out to find Claire and quickly finds out that this is bigger than he could imagine.  

The game is a side-scroller but it adds 3D elements that really make the game stand out on its own.  Frequently you’ll be aiming at enemies in the background as well as to your left and right.  It doesn’t sound like much but trust me it takes the game from feeling like a rehash of an 8-bit classic to a contemporary spin on a classic formula.  


You start the game with only a flashlight and then some climbing gear that allows you to lift yourself up onto ledges and wall jump.  Soon thereafter you’ll find a 9mm handgun and after that look out.  At a very even pace you’ll find grenades, a jet pack, missiles, a grappling hook, and more.  As you make your way through the complex this equipment will make you stronger and stronger and early on you’ll realize how great the level design really is.  

There are many vents, grates and such that can be opened with certain weapons or explosions.  This means you’ll have to pass on certain entryways or secrets until you have the proper equipment.  Who ever thought “backtracking” would be a GOOD thing in a video game?  Well that’s exactly the case here.  You need not worry whether you should divert your quest to find a certain item.  The game seamlessly progresses you forward while looping you back to the a lot of areas once you’ve acquired what it takes to find the goodies you know are around there somewhere.  You will have to go out of your way to attain 100% collection of every item though but the game will guide you to what you need.


It seems like a bare bones review, but not much needs to be said other than this game is worth every penny of its $15 price tag and more.  It’s length is appropriate (8-10 hours), the gadgets keep you interested and the story only makes its presence known when necessary.  If I were to compare it to other games I would say it feels like an old-school Super Metroid title with the looks of the Metal Gear series.  If that’s not good enough for you you’ll never be happy.  

All I have to say is at least download the demo.  If you’re anything like me you’re a little trepidacious about committing the maximum investment on Xbox Live Arcade.  I took the plunge and I couldn’t be happier.  There’s even a challenge mode similar to that of Bionic Commando:  Rearmed where you have a sizable number of trials for you to complete.  I would give the edge to BC: Rearmed in this department only because those trials had a smoother learning curve.  These ones get pretty hard early on in my opinion.  Nevertheless there’s plenty of game here and developers charging $60 no matter what they deliver to consumers should sit up and take notice.  I might even play this one again (and again), which I almost NEVER do.

Overall:  9.3 out of 10, especially when you consider the price.

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