Shadow Complex raises the bar for all downloadable titles.
Shadow complex is a downloadable side scrolling adventure game for XBLA. In the game you are Jason Fleming, a former military man who is backpacking with his new girlfriend when she disappears while exploring a cave. While searching for her you uncover a massive underground complex housing a secret army bent on world domination.
As much as the game was hyped for taking place in the universe of the Orson Scott Card Empire novels, the story itself is fairly bland. That being said, the story isn't the driving force behind this game.
The focus of Shadow Complex is on gameplay and this is where it truly shines. You start out as a regular guy with a flashlight and no special abilities, but as you progress you acquire equipment that grants you new abilities and access to areas you couldn't reach before. You also gain experience from killing enemies and exploring. When you level up, you receive a boost to one of your attributes - accuracy, precision or stamina.
The player moves strictly in 2D, but enemies can move in all dimensions and so you also fire into the screen on a regular basis. This mechanic is responsible for my lone complaint with the game. It is often difficult to aim at the enemy that you intend and also to determine your line of fire. This can often become frustrating in large battles.
That being said, the rest of the game is exemplary. Shadow Complex was built on the Unreal Engine and the graphics are beautifully rendered. It rivals any other downloadable offering out there. The level design makes exploration a pleasure and the layout of the complex does a great job in sheparding you towards newly accessible areas after you receive new equipment. The platforming controls well and by the time you've found all the equipment upgrades, your platforming abilities are leagues ahead of where you started.
Depending on your skill level and how much you explore and search for items, the game should take around 5 hours to beat. After you beat the game you are given the ability to restart the game with all of your exp. That combined with the fact that your time and score are tracked on leaderboards encourages replaying multiple times.
Replayability is also added by the Proving Grounds. The Proving Grounds are a series of timed training style exercises built with leaderboard competition in mind. The objective is simple enough – get through a series of obstacles and reach the finish line as quickly as possible, while scoring the most amount of points. This is easier said than done as many courses offer a real challenge and once you beat the level there's the constant desire to go back and better your score.
When you add it all up Shadow Complex is a special gaming experience that could turn out to be the flagship game for downloadable titles. If you have the ability to play XBLA titles, Shadow Complex is a game that should not be missed and may even leave you asking "Metroid who?".