Hands-on: Shadow Complex not too complex, very familiar

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Let there be absolutely no doubt that Chair Entertainment's Shadow Complex is heavily inspired by 2D exploration games of yore, namely Metroid and Castlevania. The Xbox Live representative that guided our hands-on demo used the word "Metroid" no less than 437 times (slight exaggeration). The game is 2D, it doles out power-ups gradually and contains plenty of exploration and action. Let's be clear about this: That is absolutely not a bad thing.


It's hard to make out Shadow Complex at first glance. The opening menu is reminiscent of Metal Gear, with massive walking tanks lining a cavernous docking bay. The introduction has the player controlling a cyber-suit-wearing badass dressed like Mass Effect's Commander Shepard. The cyber commando has myriad special abilities like a triple jump and plenty of awesome weapons. The game then flashes forward to an idyllic mountain side that introduces a main character that looks strikingly like one Nathan Drake (or the generic, non-Damon Jason Bourne, if you prefer). Sure enough, the main character has none of the amazing abilities of the cyber commando. You'll have to earn those.

Your girlfriends decides it would be fun to run off into the mountains, forcing you to chase after her. As you search for her, you come across her climbing gear. Acquiring the gear gives your player two new abilities: Wall jumping and the ability to grab ledges. When the item is picked up, the action slows down and the item is displayed center screen. It took everything I could muster not to hum the Metroid "item get" tune.

Before long, your girlfriend is kidnapped -- by one of the same cybersuit thugs you test drive at the beginning, no less -- and dragged into a mysterious, shadowy complex. Thus the game proper begins as the player enters a massive complex of tunnels that are conveniently dotted with obstructions that can only be overcome with certain weapons or power-ups. Thankfully, all of these obstructions are conveniently color-coded so you'll know what weapon you'll need to pass.

My demo started just after the player first acquires the pistol. After fighting my way through a few rooms, I discovered a rock blocking my path. Illuminating it with my flashlight, the rock glowed green, revealing that only a grenade could blast it out of the way. My next objective is handily highlighted on the game's map. I asked whether or not the game would hold my hand through all the objectives -- it seems like cheating to have the map tell you exactly where to go -- and I was told that Chair is still looking at the best balance between helpful hints and players being lost in complete confusion. We'll see.

The map, incidentally, will be huge. I was told that it's comprised of 750 separate tiles, which is roughly -- though not exactly -- comparable to 750 screens. The game should last 8-12 hours.

Anyway, grenades. The map handily pointed the way. After solving a few puzzles to make my way from room to room, I made my way to the objective. Sure enough, I came upon a stockpile of grenades. Ordinance in hand, I walked out of the room and headed for the rock ... only to be instantly jumped by a giant spider tank. Unsurprisingly, the key to winning was to recognize the boss' attack patterns and discover its weakness. With a few well-placed grenades and some good timing, the tank was dispatched without too much trouble.

Of course, I only played a small snippet of the game, and there's no telling how well the whole game will hold up and, yeah, it's a lot like Metroid. And I want more. Thankfully the wait shouldn't be too long.