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Critical Reception: Epic/Chair's  Shadow Complex

Critical Reception: Epic/Chair's Shadow Complex

August 19, 2009 | By Danny Cowan

August 19, 2009 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns



This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Shadow Complex, a downloadable Xbox Live Arcade action-adventure game that reviews describe as "an impressive clone of Metroid." Shadow Complex currently earns a score of 91 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

GameSpy's Will Tuttle scores Shadow Complex at 5 out of 5 stars. "If you're a fan of the Metroidvania games (or have the gaming equivalent of obsessive compulsive disorder, like yours truly)," he begins, "this is a game not to be missed."

"Shadow Complex tells the tale of an ordinary young man inadvertently thrust into extraordinary circumstances beyond his control," Tuttle explains. "When his new lady-friend is captured by a shadowy organization called the Progressive Restoration, our hero must save her by navigating through the group's massive underground base."

Shadow Complex's gameplay recalls the simplicity of early shooters. "Make no mistake, this is a shooter through and through," Tuttle notes, "and you won't need to deal with pesky things like ammo pickups or other fun-stopping limitations while you're running and gunning. Targeting your foes is pretty simple, as all you've got to do is point your ubiquitous laser sight at your enemies with the right analog stick and fire away."

The result is a product that should appeal to fans of Super Metroid and its progeny. "Although Shadow Complex might not be for everyone," Tuttle admits, "it's a must-play game for anyone who loves the reward-based exploration and side-scrolling action of the side-scrollers of old."

Nathan Meunier at Games Radar rates Shadow Complex at 9 out of 10. "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," he remarks. "We most heartily approve."

Shadow Complex's gameplay is defined by a satisfying sense of progression. "You're saddled with a gimpy pistol and a flashlight from the get-go," Meunier notes, "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."

Meunier continues: "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."

Meunier finds that, much like Super Metroid, Shadow Complex is a deep adventure that can either be completed quickly, or can be more carefully explored for hours afterward. "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," he writes. "The already high replay value is bolstered by challenge missions that can be tackled at your leisure."

At 1UP.com, Jeremy Parish gives Shadow Complex a grade of B, noting that the game sticks close to its source material. "To call Shadow Complex inspired by the Metroid series would be a terrible slander to the word 'inspiration,'" he says. "It's not so much that the developer, Chair, looked to Super Metroid for ideas as it is that they took a sheet of wax paper and did a rubbing of Samus Aran's entire career."

Parish continues: "It's completely identical to Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, down to the powers you earn and the map structure. This is a game where you use missiles to blow up red doors, if that tells you anything. Not that the creators have been coy about what they've been striving for here. They've flatly stated, 'We love Metroid, and we want to create something like that!'"

Shadow Complex's gameplay occasionally suffers in comparison to the high standards set by Super Metroid. "Shadow Complex earns its name: It never quite steps out of the long shadow cast by the games it cribs from, and you'll definitely find yourself making unflattering comparisons to Nintendo's original work," Parish warns. "The game world may be huge, but it's also unwieldy and discourages hunting for alternate paths; you fight the same five foes through the entire adventure; of all the Metroid elements to draw on they decided to copy the stupid key hunt from Metroid Prime."

Parish otherwise finds Shadow Complex to be an enjoyable, if predictable, experience. "Shadow Complex really is an impressive clone of Metroid," he praises. However: "It doesn't really offer any surprises, at least not to anyone who's conquered planet Zebes a time or two."


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