I had heard a lot about Shadow Complex by the time I had bought my second Xbox 360. I had not really played many downloadable titles, but I knew I had a “thing” for side-scrolling action platformers, and knew that it would be a worthy purchase alongside Super Meat Boy. I didn’t have great hopes for it, although in hindsight I’m not sure why, it really embodied a lot of things I enjoy about the infamous “Metroidvania” phenomenon. I was pleasantly surprised by a great game with a solid story and beautiful graphics. You play as Jason Fleming (voiced by Nolan North), a mild-mannered son-of-a-military-man guy who is just looking to spend a nice evening with his girlfriend out in the middle of nowhere. As we all know, encounters like this rarely end in anything but the teariest of tears, and Jason is suddenly thrust into fighting a terrorist organization bent on inciting a civil war and changing America’s government for the idealistic better. The game gives you a pistol, which you start using to pick off some lowly soldiers and make your way into the base to rescue your newly-kidnapped girlfriend from the clutches of the mean-old-soldier-dudes.
The gameplay of Shadow Complex flows nicely, giving you new weapons and gadgets quickly, and giving you plenty of play-around time to try them out before really testing your use of them. The variety of items it gives you really lets you go crazy in terms of creative ways of getting rid of enemies, and the game allows you to take cover behind low objects, giving a depth to gameplay past your typical Metroid game. The background can also house enemies, which can make some areas tricky as you must usually go into the line of fire to be able to aim at them. It also shows that the aim gets a little weird with grenades when you try to lob them into the background, but it’s only because your aim snaps directly to the enemy itself for direct shooting, so it’s hardly a game-breaking issue.
Shadow Complex is surprisingly beautiful, being one of the few XBLA titles I’ve ever even heard of that seem to use the system’s graphics capabilities quite well. The music is excellent and blends together very well between scores. In particular, I love how the music changes as you dive underwater, warping any sound effects at the same time, and adjusting the score in a way oddly reminiscent of Super Mario 64. The sound and graphic design definitely deserves praise, as it’s the best I’ve seen from such a small title in a long time.
Shadow Complex is a game that is amazing from start to finish. It’s a well-priced downloadable title on XBLM, possibly one of the best, if not the best out there. It has a gripping story, excellent gameplay, and both the achievements and in-game challenges will keep you coming back a few times before it lets you go.