Shadow Complex is a fast paced, perfect length XBLA shooter that does a fantastic job in following the tradition of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. At only $15, this is a steal that I would recommend to any XBox 360 owner.
Shadow Complex is a side scrolling shooter, similar to Super Metroid, but advancing that genre into some new areas. Like Super Metroid, Shadow Complex features well paced upgrades that keep the inventory interesting by frequently adding new abilities, such as a double jump, dash, missiles and grapple hook. It doesn’t start far from Metroid, however, and keeps to a similar list of upgrades.
The controls are finely tuned and let you aim quickly at your target, lending itself to fast paced combat with a nice touch of precision. The level design is very well done to compliment this control scheme. The base that you move through is a full 3D base, while you are only moving on a 2D plane. This seems awkward at first, but you quickly learn that aiming maintains its accuracy, and you will automatically aim into the background if needed.
In addition to the fully realized 3D base, the levels are full of secrets and optional powerups that you can easily miss if you aren’t actively seeking out hidden rooms. The flashlight can be shined on objects to illuminate destructible walls, and indicate what can destroy them. For instance, an orange glowing vent can be shot, but a red door needs to be hit with a missile. These colors only come up when using the flashlight, so they can be missed.
On the negative side, movement from side to side on the map was pretty slow. The large base has no quick routes from one side to the other, with one out of the way exception. The story was also pretty underwhelming, which was disappointing considering the game came about from Orson Scott Card’s Empire. The worst part of the game, however, was the brainless AI, especially on bosses. No enemies did much more than shoot, and get shot at. This allows you to make use of cover to eliminate enemies quickly, with them rarely hiding.
The game’s pacing was well done, using a waypoint system to guide you to the next location, and my completion time was a little over 6:30. This length was perfect, and I can always go back and finish exploring and getting all upgrades. All in all, Shadow Complex was a fantastically done game. It kept to a minimal scope and nailed everything it tried to do, except for decent enemy AI. I hope a sequel is made to further improve on this genre.