Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex

In an attempt to make “Metroidvania” a mainstream genre, developer Chair have made the exploration-action-platform game Shadow Complex using the Unreal engine. It plays a lot like the later 2D Metroid titles – in fact, it plays almost exactly like the later 2D Metroid titles and it is a bit sad to see how they didn’t really try something new in terms of exploration. On the other hand, the technology used allows for a vastly more complex presentation and there are other new things in the game.

As I see it, Shadow Complex’ problems are related to one of two groups. The first set of issues are the ones related to new technology being used for a gameplay mechanic that was somewhat reliant on tiles, simplicity and flat environments. There are small things like enemies shooting at you from outside of the view, aiming on things in the background being needlessly complex, light and shadow shining through walls and ragdolls blocking paths that you need to open,  in essence errors that could have been solved with more work. In addition, using realistic characters and a military base as a backdrop kind of breaks suspension of disbelief – having walls that glow depending on how they can be broken and endless supplies of bullets is fine when magic or sci-fi energy weapons are a part of the setting, but watching human soldiers act like there’s nothing there when you are three meters away shining a flashlight in their face feels kind of stupid.

The second set of issues are related to how slavishly the developers have followed the Super Metroid formula, a lot of times things feel like they are there just because they are supposed to rather than because they add something. Whereas weapons in the Metroid games always feel motivated and interesting, in Shadow Complex they mostly just feel like keys to open different-colored doors, and there are a lot of redundant powerups near the end.

All in all though, my issues with the game are hardly anything but nitpicks and missed potential, the game itself offers a remarkably good Metroidvania experience and thought-through design decisions like the frequent savepoints and increasingly detailed map keep the frustration to a minimum throughout. In spite of its shortcomings, I would heartily recommend Shadow Complex.

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Posted on Aug 21/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »