Xbox Live Arcade, 2009
developed by Chair, published by Epic
If you love Metroid-style gameplay, then there is a very good chance you would enjoy Shadow Complex. This is far from an original observation on my part, and the developers have openly referenced Super Metroid as the primary influence. The setting is completely re-cast, taking place in the titular “shadow complex”, an underground military facility on regular old Earth, populated by regular old humans, plus some robots. There’s a lot of futuristic equipment, but it’s mostly stuff that could probably really be developed in the next 10-20 years.
Just as in Metroid games, you start out without very much and constantly seek out upgrades and new equipment. Instead of collecting missile upgrades, you collect grenade upgrades. You even get an upgrade that makes you run fast as hell, just like in Super Metroid. In spite of these borrowed elements, there are many 2009 elements. For example, the graphics are very up-to-date; the gameplay is 2D but the graphics are running in a fully 3D environment. There are many situations and cinemas during which the camera swings close and shows the character models up close. Any time the player character attacks an enemy up close, the player is treated to a very short cut scene – running within the game engine – of the enemy being brutalized by one of many available, vicious combos. Additionally, the game makes use of the dual analog sticks. Unlike ye old Metroid and Contra games, the player character can run in any direction and shoot in any desired direction at the same time. He can run back and forth and fire in a 360 degree arc if so desired, all at once.
I think my one and only complaint is the game’s length. I read a review before playing the game that said the story takes 10 hours to complete. I guess that reviewer is super slow because I required 7 hours, and I’m a pretty average-skilled gamer. I do think there’s a pretty good chance I will revisit the game to explore every room in the complex and to find every little item. If you want an idea of what a 2D Metroid game benefiting from current tech would play like, Shadow Complex is your game.