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Samus Semblance- Shadow Complex Review

Shadow Complex for the 360. Developer: Chair Entertainment, Epic Games Publisher: Microsoft

It’s no secret that successful games will inspire a myriad of imitators. That simple axiom explains why console libraries have bulked up with kart racers, fitness games, and diversions starring space marines. Yet, one glaring exception to this maxim exists- the action/exploration game that has been confined to the Castlevania and 2D Metroid franchises. Fortunately, the developers at Chair Entertainment and Epic Games have tried to rectify this deficiency with Shadow Complex.

Gamers with a familiarity with the two aforementioned series should feel right at home. Players move a protagonist through an immense, labyrinthine environment, where specific areas cannot be initially traversed.  Once players retrieve a certain power-up, such as the ability to double (and later triple) jump, previously inaccessible areas open for investigation.  As the player is searching the landscape, a convenient map is automatically created, showing traveled zones as well as areas ripe for scrutiny. Predictably, frustration would ensue in the classic titles when the gamer neglected a piece of equipment required for advancement. Shadow Complex remedies this dilemma by providing a tell-tale line for the player to follow; those opposed to assistance will enjoy the ability to turn the indicator off. 

Where the title deviates from the formula is in the execution of combat. Both Castlevania and the early Metroid games confined attacks to two buttons; Shadow Complex has players using the right stick to aim a laser beam at foes and destructible environmental objects.  In theory, the game tries to advance the genre by adding a cover system, and the ability to nail head shots, which when executed properly, making the game’s action especially gratifying.

When combat works, Shadow Complex rivals the finesse of the best action-explorers, however two elements prohibit conflict from becoming completely instinctive. The minor concern occurs when the game’s hero- Jason Flemming, is hanging from an environmental edge. Jumping will send the protagonist away from the precipice, which is both unintuitive and contrary to the mechanics of most platforming titles. The game’s larger issue emanates from the enemies use of 3D backgrounds, when the player is confined to a strict 2D environment.  Foes will pour out of the backdrop, but Flemming regularly lacks the ability to lock onto them, causing the player to discharge rounds everywhere but into the bodies of adversaries. Typically the player has to reposition himself on-screen, often putting the hero in precarious situations.

There is one distinct advantage of being a 2D character trapped in a 3D environment- the view is magnificent. With the added complexity of an additional dimension, Shadow Complex’s varied landscapes transcend the minimalism of the genre. From the illumination of craggy caverns with a flashlight to robust, splintering explosions, the game is consistently impressive. The game’s cutscenes are strong enough to make players forget this is a downloadable title; seeing the environment reflected in a character’s eye is wonderfully cinematic. 

Despite Shadow Complex’s niggling control blemishes, the game is incredibly enjoyable, offering a five to six hour span of griping exploration. Considering the game’s production values compare favorably to a full priced disk-based title, the $15 admission is incredibly reasonable. For completionists, fans of the genre, and adventurers keen on returning to Shadow’s world, the price is a bargain.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I’m loving this game. I really hope there’s a sequel!

  2. From the title, I knew I was going to like the review. The game sounds so cool!

  3. Is there limited ammo for the guns? That always drives me crazy (RE, I’m thinking of you)

  4. You know you can play the full game from the demo?

    Anyone want to know how?

  5. I got a case of 360 envy for the first time in my life.

  6. Much better than Undertow- Congrats to Chair.

  7. I read on Kotaku that one of the guys said there was NOTHING original about the game. It was just Metroid without the cool aliens.

  8. DLC is here, and NOW. Gamestop beware!

  9. Awesome review, DE.

  10. Is pic 2 a cinematic or is there stealth sections?!?!?

  11. Forgot they made that POS.

  12. no, buy the full game and go away!

  13. Unlimited ammo. Keep those bullets flying.

  14. No real stealth parts, but there are some section you sneak past guards. There nothing major.

  15. Please post.

  16. I never liked Metroid or Castlevania. Probably not going to get this.

  17. Reminds me of Bionic Commando

  18. Any1 know if CliffyB worked on this?

  19. This is the first game I bought without playing the demo. Great game, I recommend it to all 360 owners.

  20. Another great review, Deagle. Did NOLA or Tide get a chance to play?

  21. I’m calling BS on this.

  22. Man, I want this game!

  23. Freedom's Knight

    Excellent review. I like the way you don’t wait time telling people about the story that they will learn from playing the game. Keep it Spoiler Free!

  24. I need 1200 points. Might have to beg, borrow, and spend what I dont have! LOL.

  25. Best DLC ever? I’ve played though the game three times already!

  26. Just got the foam gun. Woo-hoo!

  27. Ok, you’ve convinced me. I hope that whole 3D enemies thing isn’t too bad.

  28. I went back and looked at the eye reflection- I think it’s prerendered; a good fake, but not quite real time.

  29. Gotta finish Trials first. Summer of Arcade is kicking my ass.

  30. Yep, buncha grinches you forgot how to have fun.

  31. I think the Summer of Arcade is a great idea. At least until disk-based publishers realize plenty of people game in Summer.

  32. I’m going to have to get this.

  33. Nathan Drake is that you?

  34. Good review, I’m going to have the get this.

  35. Finally a $15 game thats worth the money.

  36. Very nice graphics. If my 360 hadn’t red ringed, Id be playing this right now.

  37. Same thing with 1Up kinda.

    Are games supposed to be original or are they supposed to be fun? Maybe reviews should write their reviews for people who dont play games 24/7.

  38. I’m loving this game. Cant wait to see some of the speed runs.

  39. I think the voice actor is the same.

  40. Just finished it! What a great game. I was fun from start to finish.

  41. it is :P…I tried the game and I really liked it and gonna get it soon.