Shadow Complex Reviews

  • Taco BobTaco Bob847,361
    22 Aug 2009 23 Aug 2009
    47 1 5
    Price: 1200 Microsoft Points
    DLC: None
    100% Completion: 10-20 hours*
    Achievement Difficulty: 5/10

    *This time is for the achievements only. There are several other challenges that could take quite awhile to master and complete.

    If I had to describe Shadow Complex's story in just a couple words, it would be "mediocre and forgettable". Unfortunately for all of the great things this game brings to the table, a good story isn't one of them. I would go so far as to say, that the game would be just as good without it. Super Metroid didn't really have one, besides killing the Mother Brain, and it is one of the most memorable games of all time. Surprisingly enough, this game was based off of the novel Empire, by Orson Scott Card, but I guess the best-selling tale doesn't transfer well into video game form.

    You play as Jason Fleming who, while searching for his missing girlfriend, stumbles across a highly advanced terrorist organization, complete with walking tanks and super soldiers. Led by a Cobra Commander lookalike, this organization plans to trigger a revolution by invading several large cities to gain followers for their cause. It is now up to Jason, to successfully find and rescue Claire, while in the process, delaying or even halting the progression of the terrorist's plans.

    Overall the story is very shallow and bland. It does little to delve into the background of the characters, and doesn't even begin to give reason to the terrorist's actions. All that is said about the organization is that they want to take over the world, starting with America, as cliche as that sounds. The plot does contain a little twist at the end, but it is so absurd and ridiculous, I couldn't help but roll my eyes.


    Metroidvania. To those not familiar with the term, is more than just a mash of game titles. It is the name of the niche genre created by the Metroid titles, and expanded with several games in the Castlevania franchise. The basis of the genre is a combination of platforming and adventure; explore, map, and collect power-ups, all within a side-scrolling and non-linear playing field. The genre has built up quite a hardcore following, and people to this day still play the classics (ie Super Metroid) finding new sequence breaks and attempting speed runs.

    Shadow Complex, as true to the genre, follows this formula flawlessly. It feels nearly the same as the traditional Metroidvania, and is a welcome addition to the barren genre. Although the original recipe doesn't call for a story, this can be forgiven as it doesn't hurt the games overall aspect.

    The game heavily revolves around exploration, as you traverse the environment and fill up your map. You'll often come across paths or barriers that you are unable to traverse with your current abilities, making you explore even more, when you finally get the required piece of equipment. This type of exploration is the staple of the genre, and rewards the player with additional pickups, for exploring side-areas and using their abilities to the fullest.

    The weapons and equipment that give you new powers are all pretty standard to the genre. The guns are mostly real-world modifications, that just give additional ammo and power for each new gun you get. The equipment on the other hand, all revolve around a sort of super suit, created by the terrorist organization, conveniently left out for you to take. You'll stumble across pieces of the suit as you explore the map, each giving you an additional ability. The abilities are all typical; breath underwater, run really fast, double-jump, hook shot, etc. However, I have to say, the complete suit looks really badass.

    Although the game was obviously inspired by titles such as Metroid and Castlevania, it isn't just a copy of those games. There are several additions to the gameplay, that shows ingenuity and progress. One of these such additions, is the 2D side-scrolling action, contained in a 3D environment (referred to as 2.5D). Although you'll only be able to travel on the 2D playing field, there will often be enemies outside of your path. These enemies are more than just part of the background, as they can shoot at you and you can return the favor. The aiming might be a bit frustrating at times, but once you get used to the 2.5D it makes a great addition to the gameplay.

    There is also a level system, which is a new one for the genre. As you kill enemies and explore new areas, you'll gain experience, which will then level your character up. As you level up you'll gain bonuses to your stamina, accuracy, and precision. There are other bonuses that unlock at higher levels, but I'll leave that for you to discover. The best thing about the leveling system, is that it carries over to a new game, so you don't have to grind against the same enemy forever, just to reach the higher levels.

    Another ingenious idea, is the inclusion of a flashlight, which not only lights up dark areas, but also reveals the necessary requirements to destroy a barrier or open a path. When the light shines on a door or obstacle, it will show the color of the corresponding weapon needed to open it. In previous games, the doors where different colors or had distinct characteristics to show how to open it. With the flashlight, the game creates a consistent and realistic looking environment, without the need for frustrating trial-and-error or ridiculous color-coded doors.


    Normally, I'd say the graphics were mediocre, but seeing as this is just a XBLA game, I'm extremely impressed. The environment and character models are even better than numerous retail titles out there. In fact, this would probably be the best looking arcade game on the marketplace, if not for the recent release of Battlefield 1943.

    The art style somewhat resembles modern day, but with a little sci-fi mixed in. It isn't too over-the-top futuristic, but it is still quite obvious that scientific accuracy wasn't a goal. If I would have to compare it to something, I would probably say the Metal Gear Solid series.

    Even with these graphics the game runs pretty smoothly, but it can slow down a little if you are speeding through areas with large amounts of enemies. There was one graphic glitch that I came across, where Jason's hair turned purple for a cutscene, but it wasn't game breaking or anything.


    The game's length itself, isn't that long. You can probably beat it in under 10 hours, even if you take the time to explore and collect most of the power-ups. Plus, when you reach level 20, the full map unlocks, including item locations, which really takes a lot of the exploration out of the game.

    However, there are numerous difficulties that provide a challenge as well as extra experience to level faster. You'll need these extra difficulties, if you are going to try to reach level 50, which will take several playthroughs, even on Insane (highest difficulty). In addition to this, there is a game mode called the Proving Grounds, which is a series of challenges based on your different abilities. These challenges can provide a good distraction, as well as a nice achievement when you complete them all.

    The game itself will keep you entertained for numerous playthroughs, and will keep that attraction for you to come back to, again and again over the years.

    There is another aspect that adds great replay value, but it isn't for everyone. Speedruns, the process of beating the game at a certain criteria as fast as possible. This type of gameplay is on a whole different level, and has a large hardcore following, especially in this type of genre. There are people that play these games for decades, in order to find loop holes (sequence breaking) to finish the game faster and faster. There are even separate challenges, set aside from the achievements, that will prove hard even for the best speedrun enthusiast. Like I said, this type of gameplay isn't for everyone, but for those that do enjoy speedruns, this is one of those games meant for it.


    For the most part you have your pretty standard achievements in this game. Complete a certain number of headshots, certain number of melee kills, finish the game, reach a specific level, etc. Nothing really revolutionary, but there are a couple unique ones, such as kick a certain number of Bombas and make 100 soldiers scream.

    However, there is one achievement that I find really extraordinary, and that is the Minimalist achievement (Complete the game with less than 13% of the items). Although it isn't the hardest challenge in the game, it is the idea of it that makes it so great. You have to sequence break to get it. The develops actually want you to find loop holes in the intended gameplay. I think it is rather cool, that the developers are willing to tip their hats off to the hardcore crowd that really enjoy this type of play.

    As for the achievements as a whole, they aren't too difficult. There are a couple that will take quite a bit of time, such as reaching level 50, but as for everything else they can all be obtained will a decent amount of gameplay. I will mention that although the Proving Grounds isn't the hardest thing to complete, the final challenge is quite frustrating.

    If you want a real challenge however, try to complete all of the Master Challenges. These won't give you any achievements or gamerscore, but you'll get insane bragging rights if you complete them. Beat the game on Insane with 100% collection, in under 2 hours. Anyone?


    This game has been talked about all Summer, and it lived up to the hype. An amazing addition to the Xbox Live Arcade and at $15 it is a must buy.

    Showing most recent comments. View all comments.
    SashamorningNice review. I like the idea of challenges not linked to achievements, like Braid has with the secret stars. Those kind of touches are nods to those who like to go above and beyond.
    Posted by Sashamorning on 30 Mar 10 at 06:48
    TrueDevilHunterGood review, but I would like to point out that this isn't the only, or 1st metroidvania title to include a level up system. Castlevania:Symphony of the Night incorporated many RPG elements including equipment management, and leveling up by gaining EXP from enemy kills.
    Posted by TrueDevilHunter on 16 May 10 at 12:47
    RatpoizenThe Remastered version just came out on Xbox One with extra achievements! Can't wait to start playing it. This game was excellent, and really great review +1.
    Posted by Ratpoizen on 18 Mar 16 at 18:04
  • MastahMattMastahMatt111,960
    15 Dec 2010
    20 1 0
    I tend to want to review games I hate - probably a form of whining so I feel better - so I've decided to make an effort to review more games that I love.

    Shadow Complex is one of the latter. This game was spectacular in so many ways...

    The story is extremely engaging. After an exciting prologue involving near-future urban warfare and the life of the vice president, the game completely throws you off by thrusting you into the shoes of Jason, a man who's about to go on a cave exploration adventure with his new girlfriend. As they venture forth, the girlfriend ventures ahead and is kidnapped by a seemingly well-armed militia group that's made the caves their base of operations. The story tells us that Jason, though a civilian, comes from a military family and has trained his whole life, despite having no desire to be a soldier. Thus he comes equipped with some skill in dealing with bad situations, and his explorations of the base will reveal several bits of high tech weaponry and gear that will allow him to infiltrate the base and eventually uncover its secrets. Never does the narrative seem overly long or tiring. It moves along at a fast and exciting pace, pushing you to explore just a bit more before taking a break. Before you know it, you've poured six hours of your day off into the game and you still don't want to put it down.

    XBLA has consistently amazed me in many regards. The term 'arcade' has always carried connotations for me of summer afternoons and a pocket full of quarters quickly burned to nothing on simple, press the button and flail the stick wildly hoping for the best, gaming fare. Although there is certainly that to be had, in its own way, Shadow Complex is an example of the more general trend in online 'arcade' games - great ideas that aren't great (or engaging on the surface) enough to garner millions of dollars of investment and entire teams of programmers to execute.

    The graphical presentation of Shadow Complex is truly excellent. No heavy in-your-face world in 3D, latest Quake engine build here. SC is a 2D side-scroller with isometric angles thrown in. Though you cannot travel 'into' the screen, enemies can attack you and approach from that direction, and you can shoot accordingly. Cover must be used consistently and carefully to avoid being overwhelmed. Large enemies will attack from novel and interesting angles, forcing you to react accordingly. None of the battles require luck to survive - everything depends on how well you utilize your environment and how much skill you employ in executing the necessary maneuvers. Explosions on screen leave you in awe, amazed that so much power can be displayed by a few pixels and the judicious employment of the right sound effects. Compare a large explosion in SC to a 'large explosion' in Mass Effect 2, for instance. SC blows its multimillion dollar competitor out of the water.

    Jason acquires experience as he fights and gains levels and power associated with those levels accordingly. Every ten levels gives a special bonus. Much higher levels provide unlimited grenades, or missiles, although the average player will not see the more extraordinary benefits on a normal playthrough, those that put in a few extra hours to gain experience will. Additionally, scattered throughout the base are various weapons and pieces of high tech gadgetry that in the end will have you feeling like a god. When you read the bit about the suit you are wearing being essentially impervious to anything short of a tactical nuclear strike while standing still, you know you're going to have fun.

    The music is stellar. There's been quite a bit of advancement in the past few years with not just sound quality, but sound quantity. Developers (quite a few of them anyhow) have realized that you don't have to have a constant screaming hard rock metal score to accompany every second of gameplay. There are moments like that, sure, but the right music applied at the right time is everything. The songs in SC were quite engaging, and I found myself wanting to hear a few of them a bit more, in fact. As already mentioned briefly, the sound effects are nearly perfect. Just to add that much more polish to the game - and this is HUGE - many of your enemies will be having conversations when you approach them. Remain hidden, and you can learn quite a bit - dash in and they'll stop talking and attack.

    Most people will finish SC in about 20 hours at the very most, if they want to explore every single secret and gain every single achievement. None of the achievements are difficult to obtain, even without a guide of any sort, though the one for getting to level 50 can take a few hours of repetitive grinding to finally accomplish.

    All in all, Shadow Complex is absolutely one of the best games to ever come out on XBLA, and one of the best games in its class ever made.
  • Furious GunmanFurious Gunman106,580
    24 Aug 2009
    16 1 0
    The story is thin but good enough for the game. You start out with a very quick tutorial. Then you get to be the main character, Jason Fleming. Jason Fleming goes to the caves with his girlfriend she gets captured. He then uncovers a secret that he must stop while he tries to go save his girlfriend.

    The game is very similar to Metroid and Castelvania. Its a 2D scroller where you move around the map to the next spot and get items that allow you to go to new places that were previously unavailable to get to.

    You move left and right with the left analog stick and aim with your right stick. The shooting is easy, but the shooting isn't what makes this game. What makes this game is the level design. The level design is perfect. It's easy to figure out where to go and some parts you can't go to until later on when you unlock a new item.

    The graphics are amazing. Shadow Complex is made on Unreal Engine 3 which has amazing graphics. This game has one of the best graphics for an arcade game.

    The voice over is great and the music throughout the game adds to the experience. This is one of the few non shooters that I don't play my own music because I would rather listen to the music in the game.

    I would rate this game as a bargain. At $15(1200 msp) this game has tons of gameplay. If you just go out to beat the game then it will only be 3-6 hours for your first run. But the game isn't meant for that. It wants you to continue playing and go for the achievements. If you are just going for the achievements then it is 10-20 hours.

    This game has a perfect balance of achievements. They have a few really easy achievements and a few more challenging ones(that aren't to difficult). The real fun is with the easy one such as headshots and melee kills they have a leaderboard that compares you to your friends even after you already got the achievement.

    Post comments if you notice errors, need clarifying on any part, have any questions, or any advice to make guide better.
  • aka Scratchaka Scratch684,953
    19 Jun 2010 19 Jun 2010
    13 1 0
    This game weighs in shy of a gig of HDD space but it’s worth every bit of room it takes up. This game won quite a few awards at this years E3 Conference and it’s easy to see why. The graphics and presentation are remeniscent of a last generation game and for an XBLA title, that’s a good thing.

    Chair included a note in the game’s help file and it says that Shadow Complex is set in the universe of a Orson Scott Card Novel called Empire and is also a companion to a future novel named Hidden Empire. Hopefully this means that we’ll see sequels and possibly a new IP for maybe even a full retail game. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    The gameplay is typical 2.5-D side-scrolling adventure. It has the elements of a classic old school game but the cut scenes give it a new school feel. I think Gears fans will find some familiar game elements as well. In the Main Adventure, you’ll explore the complex, gathering upgrades and weapons to help you gain access to new areas. At the same time, you’ll be figuring out exactly who you’re up against and what they are up to as the story unwraps. The other game mode is known as the Proving Grounds. You’ll have to master each weapon and ability to make through each of the 21 levels in the Challenge Packs.

    You start this amazing game with a flashlight and a crappy jumping ability. The good news, as you work your way into the complex you’ll find plenty of ammo and ability upgrades. You’ll get guns that are more powerful and a myriad of items that interact with the environment depending on their color. Yup, I said their color. This is where the flashlight comes in. Shine it on objects to reveal a color that indicates what weapon or action will affect it. You can check in the pause menu if you forget the color code. Don’t have the item needed? Well you’ll have to remember to come back to the area. It’ll be shown on your map so it shouldn’t be too terribly hard to remember.

    I had a great time with this game. I’ll be playing it without a doubt for awhile. If you run straight through it you could finish in a few hours. I’ve got a lot more time in then that. I keep finding myself exploring and going back looking for things I may have missed. I’m trying to finish my first run through finding 100% of the items. It’s gonna be tough, but it’ll be fun. Plus, it didn’t help that I spent 4.5 hours perfecting the first stage of the Proving Grounds to take the #1 spot on the leaderboards. :)

    This game is setting a precedent for other Arcade games to follow. That’s not to say I still don’t have a soft spot for classic arcade titles and styles, so please keep them coming. I think 1200 MS point games were a little ahead of their time but now it seems the games are catching up. Shadow Complex is definitely worth the 1200 MS point price tag.

  • R0cker 95R0cker 9537,344
    22 Aug 2009 22 Aug 2009
    14 4 1
    Shadow Complex
    9.5 out of 10

    The controls are excelent. Easy to fire, switch weapons, take out enemies and do pretty much anything. My only complaint is that every once in a while you'll try to aim at what's in front of you and instead aim forward in
    3-D. Other than that they are great. It is easy to traverse the absolutley massive world that is the Shadow Complex. Exploration is biggie in this game and borrows from Super Metroid's formula and brings it up to date and makes it better. The flashlight makes finding hidden areas easy and backtracking is more rewarding and fun than an annoying chore. The boss fights are also quite fun and entertaining and just the right amount of challenge.

    The absolute BEST graphics for the XBLA. You will not find any better. It may not be like gears of war but they are still excelent. You will find at times stiff animations and voiceovers during cutscenes, but they are easily overlooked.

    The story is a bit ridiculous (Some organization with an entire freakin' army trying to cause a civil war in America and one guy stopping them). The storytelling, however, is great and actually makes it beleviable and very entertaining. The ending is great makes you feel like you really did something. It is also pretty long, with my first playthrough clocking in at over 8 hours.

    Replay Value: High
    You'll want to play through this game multiple times to get all the way to level 50 and find every item and beat it on the hardest dificulty. The training are also pretty fun.

    In conclusion this is the best game released on the XBLA yet and is a major steal at 1200 MP ($15 in non-stupid talk). You'll be playing this game untill you forget what day it is and will be lost in the amazing and fun gameplay and exploration. Some ugly graphics here and there and some messed up A.I. every now and again, but this is the absolute best game on the XBLA. It is an absolute must buy.

    I give it 9.5 out of 10 or 5 stars out of 5.
  • TheSecondLetterTheSecondLetter109,546
    05 Apr 2013
    7 0 0

    Overall, I felt Shadow Complex was about as good as it gets for an Xbox Live Arcade title. It was definitely one of my favorites and I thought it handled the Metroidvania style of play extremely well.

    Shadow Complex caters very well to Action Junkies and Explorers since the focus is shooting bad-guys and traversing the semi-non-linear world.

    If you are a bookworm, don't expect much from the story and there is no co-op or competitive play for those of you who like to play your games with friends.

    Ultimately, if you enjoy 2.5D action games with a hint of exploration and the ability to level and customize your character with weapon and armor upgrades, then you can't go wrong with Shadow Complex.
  • TimTaiwanTimTaiwan225,226
    12 Feb 2010 12 Feb 2010
    3 3 0
    Nice Retro side scroller. Reminded me of many a game. (Abuse/Metroid/Pitfall)

    I liked the exploration aspect of the game. The building of skills did not seem as forced and limiting as in some games. The graphics were great, especially for an arcade game. And it seemed be able to build a bit of atmosphere at times, which is hard to do in a side scrolling game. Some of the puzzles required a bit of cleverness, but nothing that was mainline in the game require excessive thought.

    I thought the ending was a little under done. And the boss battles were undercooked as well. Mostly I hide behind a crate and spammed rockets and grenades. I felt the difficulty at the beginning was good, but as you gained strength your opponents did not really keep up with you. In the end could run full a room of bad guys without any thought.

    Overall, a good game with pretty solid controls. And it is now my favorite Xbox Arcade game. If you enjoy a good side-scroller I am sure you will enjoy this.