There’s no denying that Xbox Live Arcade was home to some of the greatest indie titles to grace the last generation of gaming. From Bastion to Short Pause favorite Super Meat Boy, many acclaimed smaller budget titles not only found a wealth of success on the platform at the time, but continue to find fresh successes today as they branch out to new platforms and audiences. Shadow Complex is one of these Xbox Live Arcade gems and, after seeing a remastered release on both PC and Xbox One a few months ago, PlayStation gamers can finally get their hands on one of the best (in my humble opinion) metroidvania shooters ever made!
Title: Shadow Complex Remastered
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Developer: Chair Games
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation (Reviewed)
Shadow Complex Remastered follows the story of Jason Fleming and his girlfriend, Claire, as they stumble across a hidden underground complex while hiking in the Olympic Mountains. Claire heads into the complex first and is immediately taken hostage, leaving Jason to track her down as he trails behind her screams for help. As Jason progresses through the massive facility, he finds new guns and pieces of an armored suit (a la Iron Man!) that help him take down the mysterious armed forces that lurk below. New items such as a grappling hook, rocket launcher, grenades, and foam are added to Jason’s arsenal and, in true metroidvania fashion, grant him the ability to access new areas as he and Claire discover the purpose of the complex and fight to escape with their lives.
Shadow Complex’s strongest suit is, arguably, its level design. From the rocky terrain above ground, to the massive underground facility itself, each area feels unique and ripe with areas to explore in search of not only new paths of progression, but various upgrades as well. Players will find themselves motivated to explore by the healthy rate at which new equipment drops. Grenades and other items provide players with the tools necessary to blow up doors and objects that may be blocking a hidden path or concealing an area housing a valuable upgrade pack. From health upgrades to ammo increases, these upgrades – while not crucial to success – definitely help make Jason feel like a heavily armed bad-ass. The controls here feel great as well, as jumping, climbing, and swimming all feel perfectly responsive.
As players progress further into the complex, enemies naturally become bigger and tougher. There is never a shortage of grunts to dispatch, but they’ll eventually be joined by a variety of soldiers wielding rocket launchers, shield carriers, and heavily armored, machine-gun-toting enemies among others. Enemy variety will keep you on your toes, and you’ll also constantly be trying to avoid fire from the minions taking pot shots at you in the background. There are, of course, the occasional boss fights that require a little more planning and, while these big baddies weren’t too challenging (I was playing on Normal), they felt rewarding enough to dispense. They definitely had that “ah-ha!” feeling when figuring out how to swing the odds of the fight in your favor.
While the gun play is a lot of fun, it does come with its caveats. Engaging enemies in the background isn’t always as simple as one would think. I lost count of how many times I wanted to throw a grenade at a guy directly in front of me, only to find myself half-facing the background and ultimately wasting a grenade because I threw it to the side of me. Aiming at enemies in the background isn’t fine-tuned, either. I found myself struggling to efficiently dispose of enemies firing away at me in the background while I was focused on a tougher enemy in front of me. Jason will only aim in the background if there’s an enemy there, so this is only an issue in rooms with enemies in both the foreground and the background.
Great gameplay and level design aside, Jason (voiced by Nolan North) and Claire’s story is unfortunately the only dull thing I found here. The characters are well acted throughout, but the actual story being told never gained any traction with me. I suppose that’s a good thing given the anti-climactic ending.
At the end of the day, Shadow Complex Remastered is a great showcase of the metroidvania genre. While the story definitely puts a bit of a damper on the proceedings, the spectacular level design and responsive controls pick up the slack. Shootouts are almost always a fun time, despite the occasional awkwardness of trying to shoot enemies in the background, and the enemy variety will keep players vigilant as they progress through the mysterious complex. The other day, I mentioned to a good friend that I was playing Shadow Complex for the first time. This yielded a response of, “You’re in for a real treat!” and he couldn’t have been more right. I’m happy to have finally experienced what this game has to offer, and I implore those of you who’ve yet to experience Shadow Complex to remedy that as soon as possible.
A review copy of Shadow Complex Remastered was graciously provided by our friends at Chair Entertainment.
- New gear drops at an excellent rate
- Exploration is rewarding
- Nice variety of weapons
- Superb level design
- 2.5D shooting could be more efficient
- Anti-climatic story