Review: Shadow Complex Remastered

This review is based on the Xbox One version of Shadow Complex Remastered.

Chair Entertainment is now best known for the massive Infinity Blade series, but their first hit game was the original Shadow Complex which spearheaded Xbox’s Summer of Arcade 2009. Mixing a blend of side scrolling platforming and an addictive combat style, it was a throwback to classics such as Super Metroid and inspired a revival of 2D platform games that continues to this day.

Nearly a decade later, Shadow Complex Remastered adds some minimal graphical tweaks but otherwise keeps the original game intact in its migration to the Xbox One. It’s still a ton of fun to walk and run (eventually at supersonic speed) around as Jason Fleming, bewildered backpacker on a date who eventually rises to heroism to save his captured girlfriend Claire. This unfolds after a blockbuster opening sequence blasting an assault helicopter with a fully enabled combat suit, another nod back to the Metroid ouevre before the plot by Peter David unfolds.

 

The game looks and sounds very similar to the original release as the remastering effort was not as extensive as the full recreations of other Xbox 360 classics such as Gears of War, but a new coat of paint is really all it needed. The textures are a little low resolution in some cases and the stock enemy troops can blend together, but overall Shadow Complex still looks visually interesting and the sound design still finds the sweet spot between realism and pop sensibility that the original had. The voice acting also deserves a separate shout out, especially Nolan North in one of his earlier star turns as the put upon but ultimately heroic protagonist.

Tearing through an underground fortress to uncover a vast conspiracy, acquiring combat upgrades and smashing through enemy Restoration troops is every bit as enjoyable as it was in 2009. The power suit rivals the best that Samus Aran has unveiled in her adventures: there’s nothing as fantastical as the screw attack or power ball in Shadow Complex Remastered, but Fleming has his own collection of jet augmented jumps and supersonic running speed to traverse levels with precision. The array of weapons stay within the established bullet and missile based types which works well with the impulse rumble of the Xbox One controller, initiating a pleasing buzz or kick when dealing damage to foes at all angles. That said, the real fun comes with punching, kicking and shoulder charging through enemies with a variety of context sensitive combat moves, especially when you can catch them unaware or send them flying off the map as they shriek in anguish…!

The boss fights can be repetitive and digging up the expansion tanks can be vexing when the upgrades are tucked into the far recesses of the map, but the vast majority of the game can be completed as quickly or leisurely as desired. Frequent enemy respawns and level progression provides an incentive to circle back and gain XP, apply new abilities to previously unreachable areas and generally bounce around the interconnected levels.

Shadow Complex is still one of the best games to build upon the side scrolling action platform genre established by the original Metroid series. The smart additions of a partial extra dimension with the 2.5D format to expand the playing field without going full 3D and the unwavering focus on fast and fun combat make the remastered edition a must have for both gamers new to the title and long time fans interested in a return to the Olympic Mountains and the secrets buried beneath.

 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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