It’s almost uncanny how easily a romantic hike into the rocky mountain wilderness with your new girlfriend can turn into an explosive, power suit-fueled rumble through the secret underground complex of militaristic revolutionaries on the verge of launching a massive coup against the US government. Yes, appearances can be deceiving. As fresh as Shadow Complex looks and feels on the surface, it’s really a cleverly disguised homage to the SNES heydays of a certain armor-clad bounty huntress. We most heartily approve.
As the game’s reluctant hero, Jason Fleming, you’ll seek to save your girlfriend and stop the plot to overthrow the government being hatched by her captors. You’re saddled with a gimpy pistol and a flashlight from the get-go, but by the end of this fast-paced 2D adventure platformer, you’ll be swinging from the rafters, face-punching burly brutes across the room, diving deep underwater, leaping impossibly high with the aid of thrusters, and laying waste to the enemy compound from the inside out with high-powered weaponry. The game’s blood-spilling action is balanced by strong exploratory elements and frequent plot updates. In addition to acquiring the hot tech needed to thwart the armed resistance, your physical abilities are creatively honed though an experience system that levels-up gradually as you take down enemies and access new areas of the base.
Shadow Complex blends old-school side-scrolling gameplay with a gorgeously 3D visual flair powered by the beefy Unreal Engine 3. You’ll venture through lush forest landscapes, dark tunnels carved deep into the earth, air ducts brimming with technology, and cavernous warehouses packed with automated assembly lines and giant killer robots. It all provides for some marvelous sight-seeing opportunities. Enemy soldiers and their large, robotic counterparts are creatively worked into the environments as well. At times troopers will come spilling out toward you from the scenery itself with guns blazing. During these moments, you can shoot at odd 3D angles to take down opponents in the background. This adds another dimension of depth and further illustrates just how impressive the presentation is for a downloadable game.
Much like the classic game it references, Shadow Complex is rife with color-coded doors that can only be opened with specific equipment gained at different points along your travels. Following objectives laid out on the map leads you directly to these key items and advances the plot, yet there’s a ridiculous amount of power-ups to uncover and secret areas to explore by trailblazing. A straightforward run through can be completed in under five hours, but you’ll want to take your time to fully explore every brilliant nook and cranny to extend the fun. The already high replay value is bolstered by challenge missions that can be tackled at your leisure. Chair Entertainment has substantially raised the bar for downloadable games to come and helped us rediscover a long lost love in the process.
Aug 17, 2009