Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shadow Complex

A month or so ago I finished Chair's Unreal Engine powered Xbox Live Arcade title, Shadow Complex. The game is a 2D sidescrolling platform adventure game in the style of Metroid or Castlevania, or so everyone points out. Having skipped the NES/SNES era entirely (actually, I have never owned any Nintendo console), this doesn't mean much to me, in the same way Zelda references, which reviewers often make, don't mean anything to me, but the basic style of the game will be familiar to anyone who has been playing games for a while.

I'm not going to attempt to write up a proper review of it, you can look at one of the many positive reviews on Metacritic if you are interested in more in-depth detail.

What I really liked about the game is how traditional it is. The whole game, you run left and right, jump, climb ladders and shoot things. At times enemies appear in the foreground and background of the screen, but this doesn't really change the fact that the game is strictly two dimensional. Despite this, it is not simplistic, gradually upgrading your abilities to allow you to reach new areas and move around the game world in different ways. The game is not retro pastiche, and it doesn't have to rely on nostalgia for it to be enjoyable, it is simply the kind of game that developers used to make, made with modern technology, and I'm glad for it. I think sometimes modern games set out to be all things to all people, and sometimes they lose sight of some of the things that made games entertaining in the earlier years of the medium.

I wrote a post a while back about certain things I didn't like about digital distribution of console games, but Shadow Complex to me represents how the downloadable game can really succeed. The game looks good for an XBLA game, and is far from the throwaway entertainment offered by some downloadable titles, but it still wouldn't justify a boxed release at regular retail prices. They would have to add far more to the game in order to do so, and I think that would strip it of some of its charm.

I meant to write this post earlier in the week, as the game was reduced to 800 MSP as the Xbox Live Gold deal of the week for 21-27 December, but even at the regular 1200 MSP price I would certainly recommend the game.

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