For those who have played the classic Metroidvania titles, Shadow Complex will seem like no more than a modern take.

User Rating: 9 | Shadow Complex X360
Epic Games have come together once again (with help from author Orson Scott Card) and given us Shadow Complex. Just what is Shadow Complex? Well, it is a 2D/3D side scrolling adventure game, not unlike old school Metroid or Castlevania. It is also a tie-in for the Empire series of books, giving it a unique flavor to it's universe and story.

To be blunt, if you have played the best 2D Metroid and Castlevania games, you may not be thoroughly impressed with Shadow Complex. While it does introduce some new ideas and style of it's own, this is definitely no Super Metroid, Symphony of the Night, or even a Metroid Fusion or Dawn of Sorrow. But that isn't to say that Shadow Complex is a bad game or to downplay it's quality. It is just to say that how much of an impression this style will leave on you will be based on your previous outings with the genre in the first place.

The game does bring some of it's own qualities to stand out. Unlike any 2D adventure game before it, this has spliced pieces of 3D introduced. Enemies can move in all three dimensions but you can only move in two. So how do we solve this? Well, you can shoot into the third dimension. This adds a fun depth to the game and it's combat. The aiming however, takes a little work. When aiming into the third dimension you will usually auto-aim from certain positions if you don't press anything, but there's no concrete explanation for this and there were still moments after 2-3 playthroughs where I felt like it could use a little Metroid aim assistance button.

The game also goes into third-person mode when you man a gun turret, but this happens only a handful of times throughout the entire game, so it wasn't too big a deal. I would have preferred more drawn out 3D sequences. Perhaps something where you run in hyperspeed and shoot people in a third-person view. Speaking of hyperspeed, the power-ups and puzzles are pretty much the same as most Metroid games. Anything new here either makes the game ridiculously easy or has the same Metroid-esque purpose of mostly being used to get beyond certain doors.

The presentation of this game is what puts it above others in it's category. While you can argue the originality of the gameplay, you can't argue the graphical beauty, voice acting talent, or story. Not to say this is the best story ever, but it is an interesting one. The voice cast is good, and the graphics are great. It's this modernization of the game's genre that makes it feel smooth, fluid, and even new.

While aiming and innovation were the other flaws touched on, I just have to give another one some attention. Save rooms. In any other game, entering a save room gives you the choice of whether or not you want to save, and it fills your health fully when you do. In a Shadow Complex save room, it is autosave as soon as you enter the room, and the health/ammo items are finite. They have a respawn, and you can't just go back into the room for health. I feel this should be one or the other. There were many times when I was just going through or trying to evade a battle and I walk into a room and it saves my game with like 30 health. If it is going to autosave, it should auto-heal as well, and it should be 100% health every time. But regardless, the health should never have a respawn. Nothing gets worse than feeling like the game design is keeping you from proceeding.

Flaws and originality aside, Shadow Complex is a great game. I have given it some healthy playthroughs, one with 100% of the items, and I'm working on the achievement for beating it with less than 13% but that isn't coming as easy. For fifteen dollars, the quality definitely justifies the price. This is the strongest Xbox Live Arcade game to come out this year and one of the top games in general as well.