Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shadow Complex, to fulfill my "Metroid-vania" urges


In a focused effort to only grab the "creme de la creme" of Xbox exclusive titles, I've downloaded Shadow Complex (1200 Microsoft points) on XBLA.  With a very familiar map system and level-up stats, it's no secret how the game gets its "Metroid-vania" label.  What sets the game apart is its clever use of camera angles and detailed backdrops that make the experience more than a platforming romp through static level design.

After playing a lot of Dead Nation these past few weeks, the gameplay in Shadow Complex came almost naturally.  You move with the left analog stick, while aiming your gun's laser sight with the right analog.  And not only do you have free-angle aiming of your gun, you can take out enemies in the background thanks to the depths of certain rooms.  In one, you'll have guards running towards you from the background, and your laser sights (when aimed properly) will aim straight into the background, allowing you to gun them as they come towards the screen.

The playful use of different camera angles also keep the game's story fresh and lively, and reminds us how Shadow Complex is much more than your typical platformer.  Most of the time it emphasizes the level's scope and depth, and sometimes it's there to assist for hard-to-see angles.  And sometimes it gives you a front seat on a hot turrent gun ready to take out a group of unlucky soldiers.

The game's item-upgrading system is practically in parallel with Metroid with the progressive gun upgrades and gradual increase of grenade inventory.  And the level-up system improves your character stats over time, increasing things like precision and stamina.

Shadow Complex is a good mix of old gameplay style with a new graphics look, and will tickle the "Metroid" and "Castlevania" bones in veteran gamers.
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