Shadow ComplexlikePEGI16 Developer Chair Publisher Epic Games Genre Action Platform Xbox 360 Release Out Now Back in the days of 8-bit colours and controllers shaped like bricks, there was very limited types of games you could play. Either through the limitations of the console or the control scheme, sometimes for other reasons, but mostly these. Back when, games were all about jumping around, hitting stuff and defeating whatever evil was plaguing the digital land. Now, times are much different. 3D has broadened the types of games we all now enjoy. But somewhere, those golden oldies have slipped away from us.

If in doubt, shoot it in the face.
Although it's a comparison used an awful lot for this game, including a comparison which the developers themselves used; Shadow Complex for the Xbox Live Arcade is a re-envisioning of the classic formula used by games such as Metroid and Castlevania. Admittedly, Castlevania still uses it's formula to great effect with it's Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS games, however, you'll be mistaken for thinking Shadow Complex is a mere clone of these games. Shadow Complex is an expansive, open world game in which the only limitation to enter various parts of the world are abilities and weapons you hold or the level your character has obtained.

Shadow Complex's story ties into the Peter David "Empire" novel, in which the main character; Jason Flemming and his new-found love interest; Claire have just embarked on a spelunking trip when Claire is kidnapped by a mysterious group of soldiers known as The Restoration who believe she is a spy. Jason, who just happens to be a natural-born soldier-come-pacifist now brings it upon himself to save Claire and stop The Restoration from it's ultimate goal; conquering the United States. The story itself is littered with a helping hand of cutscenes and wonderful voice acting, cheesy dialogue was expectedly unavoidable, however it's at least a refreshing look upon a stereotypical action movie/game script.

Being an almost entirely 2D game, Shadow Complex is a deceptively complex game, the controls however, are far from it. You move around using the left analogue stick, jump, reload and run are on the face buttons, grenades/foam/missiles and the flash light are on the shoulder buttons, crouch and fire are on the triggers. You can swap between shoulder items using the D-pad. The map is on the Back button. A pretty standard control scheme. As you progress through the game, more actions become available to the player, such as the foam gun, a sweet weapon which can be used to forge terrain which the player can walk and climb on, creating new paths to locations and creating shortcuts.

All I know is that I want that foam stuff.
Although the game is played through the 2D plane, the game does introduce you to the third dimension fairly frequently. Enemies will often be lingering adjacent to your location to attempt to shoot you. There's no real difference about shooting these enemies as the game's auto-aim will guide your lasersight towards them. That's including when aiming using the right analogue stick. The only slight difference here, is that you cannot melee enemies that are in a different plane. You'll also have the occasional turret battle which allows you a good 180 degrees of shooting wildly into the third dimension.

Your main mode of transportation around the game world is by foot, however this isn't always a laborious jaunt as one may expect. It seems every square on the game world has been placed to pace your progression through the game world and keep you entertained when you're forced to re-trace your steps in order to open a passageway once unavailable to your underpowered player at the time. Once again, powerups and skill will help any player overcome the many obstacles in Shadow Complex, quite a few of which will instantly kill players. Such as over-powered grill-heaters and obligatory crushing devices. One thing you can't say about Shadow Complex in almost anyway is that it's dull.

The game is also littered with several huge bosses, which are nothing more than huge bullet sponges. Sure, there's the odd boss or two which will kick your sorry behind on the first play. Mostly because you grow to underestimate bosses and when one actually poses somewhat of a challenge, you're literally caught off-guard. That being said, a few bosses are very entertaining in their appearance or mannerisms, like a boss late into the game which pummels you with missiles. It is a bit disappointing though, that the main strategy for all bosses is to use all your grenades and missiles and find a good spot to shoot him/it without him/it shooting you.

The real hero of the game: Jason's knees
The great thing about Shadow Complex is that, really, the only thing that stops a player from getting anywhere or finding the copious amounts of power ups in the game, which stem from increases in grenade/missile/foam stocks, health upgrades and gold bars which are just collectables is their skill, experience level (which in RPG-fashion go up the more you kill stuff or complete objectives) and how much foam they can carry at any one time. The game even has a counter to enter into an online global leaderboard, the best time being around 20 minutes. Let it be known, the game will take you a lot, lot longer than that. On several play throughs.

Visually Shadow Complex is a wonderful treat as well, especially for an Xbox Live Arcade game. Character models are highly detailed, as is the world itself. The game has a screen filter which tints to different colours depending where in the game world you are, making in-doors look very crisp and washed out, while out-doors has an appealing soft-orange tint. Together, Shadow Complex could easily rival a title worth four times it's price tag. And that's very impressive.

Metal... Gear!?
As far as ear-candy goes, the game wont disappoint there either. The game is filled with orchestrated goodness, more than enough realistic sound effects and voice acting to die for. There are a few jerky music transitions here and there, but all-in-all you'll hardly notice them or simply wont care too much at all about them. Everything fits together quite nicely and presents itself in an impressive way.

Overall, Shadow Complex is a very competent side-scrolling action adventure game. It's world is expansive, it's map system is easy to follow, gameplay is fun and varied and has not a dull moment. That coupled with a somewhat interesting plot makes the game well worth it's 1200 MS Points, which as of writing, is about £10. The only slight draw-back to Shadow Complex is it's size. You'll require a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) of some sort attached to your console in order to download the game, as it's 835MB size will cause problems for those with only a standard memory unit. Consider the game highly recommended.