Shadow Complex: Super Super Metroid

By Louise Yang . August 17, 2009 . 11:42am

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Let me preface this review by saying one thing: while I enjoy 2D Metroid style games, I can only play them so long before getting lost, frustrated, bored, or all of the above. That said, I also have to say, I am head-over-heels in love with Shadow Complex because the game makes exploration and backtracking actually exciting and rewarding.

 

Shadow Complex starts players off taking control of Jason, who might as well be called Nathan Drake considering Nolan North (the voice of Drake in Uncharted) lends his voice to this character too. As expected, things aren’t going so smoothly with Jason and his newly found lady-friend as she gets kidnapped on what was supposed to be a fun hike in some caves. A sinister story unfolds with bad men in masks and as predicted, Jason is tasked with saving the girl and figuring out just what the heck he landed in the middle of.

 

The perspective in Shadow Complex is something that may take a few minutes to get used to. The game looks 3D with its rich foregrounds and backgrounds but moves like a 2D game. I kept trying to head down paths in the background to follow enemies. Unlike a typical 2D side-scroller, enemies don’t just appear on both sides of the screen, but also at the top, bottom, and even in the background.

 

Luckily, the enemies are easy to shoot at thanks to the targeting system in this game. Weapons will auto-lock onto most enemies, but moving the right analog stick will manually aim a tracer from the weapon. Manually aiming comes in handy when trying to pick off enemies hanging out on platforms or in the background as well as targeting specific body parts. Yes, head shots also work.

 

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Weapons and upgrades are introduced at a logical pace without overwhelming the player. Despite the amount of backtracking in the game, it never feels like a chore because there’s always a new toy to play with, a new route to open or a proverbial carrot at the end of the stick. In the later half of the game, when cooler and cooler upgrades get picked up, controlling Jason gets more exhilarating as he gets closer and closer to being practically invincible. One thing the game does well is not make older upgrades seem obsolete. Each upgrade has a time and place.

 

As players progress through the game, the care the artists put into each area becomes apparent. The different locales such as the cold, sterile interiors feel so distinct from the lush, sunny exteriors. The under-water sections feel like they’re actually underwater and the floating debris scattered throughout lends extra realism to the water.

 

Model animations are also gorgeous. I couldn’t help but stare and laugh the first time an enemy I shot down dangled from a balcony only to fall screaming to his death a few seconds later. When I noticed that Jason does a slide when he quickly switches directions while running, I knew that special care was given to this game.

 

In terms of game-play, it’s been a while since I played a 2D game that was this satisfying. Shadow Complex lets players run into a room, guns blazing if they’re fearless. If players lean more toward the Metal Gear Solid type of tactics, it’s also possible to sneak up to enemies and perform a bone-crunching melee finisher. Towards the later half of the game, the amount of weapons and projectiles available made disposing of enemies like an all-you-can eat buffet: options galore!

 

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Although most of the game is straight-forward, Shadow Complex throws in a handful of fairly easy puzzles. They are logical enough that players shouldn’t get boggled down too much. The few times I did get stuck, it was because I overlooked something obvious in the room or forgot to use my flashlight. I especially enjoyed the little tricks the designers put in to deal with rooms full of enemies. Here’s a hint: plumbing + grenade.

 

For the amount of polish put into Shadow Complex, I expected boss fights to be nothing short of fantastic. They don’t disappoint. They’re not the hardest or trickiest fights (I’d like to give Castlevania that award) but they’re distinct, rewarding and the fireworks that come out of a defeated boss are certainly very satisfying.

 

Some may say that Shadow Complex is a short game, but I think its length is perfect. There isn’t a lot of filler, so things don’t get repetitive. The achievements that pop up throughout the game gives a sense of accomplishment and for those who are big achievement-mongers, there are tons to unlock in subsequent play-throughs, as well as leaderboards for speed runs and completionists.

 

In the end, Shadow Complex is a highly entertaining, aesthetically pleasing, enjoyable game. The range of difficulty settings caters to players of all levels. Its high production values, rewarding gameplay, and replayability makes it an absolute steal at $15 on the Xbox Marketplace.


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  • Jirin

    Super Metroid is like my favorite platform game of all time, so if it plays anything like that it’s a must buy for me. But I hope it’s hard enough to satisfy more old school gamers. The best time I ever had with Super Metroid was when I went back and started doing speed runs, and I had to learn all the tricky stuff like wall jumping.

    I do understand not everybody likes hard games. But I do. So why can’t both hard and easy games be made, instead of just easy ones?

    • http://www.nakedsushi.net/ Louise

      There are harder difficulty modes you can use to play through the game as well as leaderboards for speed runs. One thing I like about the game is once you get most of the upgrades, there are just so many different shortcuts you can use to get to different areas.

  • Aoshi00

    Been anticipating for this title ever since its announcement, glad it plays as well as it looks. I guess they weren’t joking when they said they wanted to take a downloadable game to another level. Jason looks kind of weird to me, like his head is too big or something…

  • Name

    “I can only play them so long before getting lost, frustrated, bored, or all of the above.”

    without knowing which games you apply each complaint to, this is a pretty useless qualifier.

    • http://www.nakedsushi.net/ Louise

      Super Metroid and all the recent Castlevanias on the DS. So…pretty much all the games I’ve played that are in that similar vein.

      • Aoshi00

        I actually have the same problem w/ the recent Castlevania on GBA/DS, as embarassing it is to admit. Sometimes I just hit a dead end, put down the game for a month or two, then I had no idea where I am and what I need to do next since several routes are blocked :(.

        But Shadow Complex does look amazing w/ its 3D background and such, can’t wait until tmw, have to try out the demo first.

      • http://www.younganimal.com/berserk Mr_Qoo

        Maybe this is one of the reasons you (and Aoshi00) enjoy Shadow Complex a lot more than other said games: They have a pathway to your next destination marked on the map. Which makes it much more easy and tolerable for people who had problems and before anyone gripes, when you pull up the map you can switch the destination path to default on/off with the press of a button. So exploring can be more … adventurous?

        I really do enjoy Shadow Complex. Not an amazing story, but the game has stepped up Arcade Games a few notches for sure and it’s full of nostalgia! Great buy.

        • http://www.nakedsushi.net/ Louise

          Yes! The blue path has helped me in so many ways. I wish all Metroidvania games had this option for people with no direction skills like me.

          I agree with the story though. Typical video game story. I kinda just tried to ignore it. Especially the ending.

  • wharcraff

    Saw some gameplay vids of this online and it really looks cool. The Contra/Blackthorne feel it pulls off is great.

  • http://mmeow.net/ Tony

    This game seems incredible. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough. Metroid comparisons (particularly to Super) get me all worked up.

    I hear 10 hours, so that’s not short to me. It’s freaking $15. From the sounds of it it may redefine the $15 game on XBLA, much like Twisted Pixel has been redefining the $10 game with The Maw and ‘Splosion Man. Hopefully this will set a value trend that will discourage $15 console/arcade ports of games I can get for $2 otherwise.

    Love that there’s multiple difficulties and speed run options too.

    • http://www.nakedsushi.net/ Louise

      If you’re a fan of Metroid games, then I bet you’ll beat the game the first time in under 10 hours if you’re not collecting everything. I took my time, even got lost for an hour once, and I finished the game at about 40% items in less than 6 hours.

  • Jirin

    Here’s my problem with this game. There is no balanced difficulty level.

    I start playing on Hardcore. You have a tendency to die in like half a second the moment you step on screen. Okay, so I switch it down to normal. Nothing can really hurt me that much and I cost through everything easily. Boring, so I switch back up to Hardcore. I get to fights like the one right after Claire is taken on the helicopter where there’s zero cover so if you don’t win the fight in literally like two seconds, you lose.

    A lot of the early platformers were hard, but damage wasn’t dealt very fast (Pit and spike traps aside). Plus everything was dodgeable. Now I feel like I have two choices. Switch down to normal and be bored, or play on hardcore and lose instantly if I don’t memorize some trick beforehand.

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