Copyright Adam Schlosser

Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser

Posted by Pip

F245- Test Of Faith

This is DEFINITELY cheating. How can you properly smite nonbelievers if you can't get any proper smiting in? Unless the Sins can pawn off cracked ribs and bruises as some particularly shaky night terrors, even-handed diplomacy may be the only solution. Yep, they're screwed.

Quick Critique: Shadow Complex

Action-exploration games are most definitely my scene, so with Shadow Complex going multiplatform, it was time to check it out. It definitely skews more towards the Metroid than then -vania side of the spectrum and that's not my preferred weighting. Using guns instead of melee gets boring more quickly and the way SC handles long rooms means that you get hit by enemies that you can't see because they're three screens away. Guns also prevent me from giving into the magical realism as deeply so it just feels silly to be diving in and out of water, firing your guns underwater, and everything works perfectly fine. It's a world with robot suits and mechs, so just a throwaway line of dialogue about them being special guns with some magic mod that keeps water out or a fully enclosed body would have made me gloss over the attempts at realism clashing with the fantastical. Enemies don't drop items or equipment like in the -vania games and leveling up is very slow and it's difficult to feel the effects of it, so SC has the same issues as Metroid where backtracking feels tedious and it has no fast travel or warps. Castlevania has enemies drop items and you gain experience from killing monsters, so even when you're backtracking, you feel like you're accomplishing something. Puzzles and special doors also reset when you leave the area, so you find yourself completing the same puzzles over and over through your time in the world.
SC is light on the new abilities and they're mainly to get through artificial blockers, up until the very end of the game. You need grenades to open green doors, missiles to open red doors, the foam gun to open purple doors, etc. Double jumping is always a plus though and that's the first ability that makes you feel really good. The foam gun (think those black goo guns from The Incredibles) is neat but you mainly just use it to open special doors and it only has one optional "puzzle" kind of moment. SC also some incredible way managed to make a grappling hook not fun. You carry around a flashlight and the mechanics associated with it are more annoying than anything that offers neat gameplay moments. You have to shine it on objects to see what powers are needed to open them, so there's a whole button associated with that one thing and it has limited battery so it shuts off from time to time. There's rarely a reason to not have the flashlight on unless you're going stealth, and given the ease and amount of combat you really don't have a reason to go stealth, so the flashlight is an unnecessary complexity and annoyance. They should have just made it part of the visor upgrade that it automatically "scans" and identifies what you're aiming at and you don't need the flashlight from then on (and then you could assign that button to the grapple rather than trying to make it a sub-weapon). There's some multi-plane- z-axis fighting but it doesn't add anything to the game and feels really inconsistent. Since you can't move into the z-plane, there's stuff you want to go to or try that you can't and the aiming into the background feels random because sometimes you can peg an enemy on the other side of the room and in the background and other times you'll spew bullets into the air and be unable to aim at an enemy two steps away from you. You're also completely at the game's mercy on what you aim at if there are two enemies in the background next to each other and the game does a poor job of selecting the priority target.
Gameplay issues aside, it's still a perfectly acceptable action-exploration game and I mostly enjoyed my time with it, but oh man, the story and dialogue are sooo bad. "Random lady you met the night before instantly falls in love with you and asks you to kiss her before saving the world from a secret anti-government sect that's bringing the USA down from within but you're just the right high-powered rich white guy that totally could have been in the military and trained his whole life for it but turned it down for the job" kind of bad. It's a super juvenile power fantasy that's basically a high schooler's version of a Tom Clancy video game. The group out to destroy the US is set up as the bad guys, but you get the feeling that the game is just a few drinks shy of asking if that's REALLY so bad and moving to a compound to stockpile guns. They straight up murder-explode the Vice President but the game passes it off as a humorous moment. It's one of those rare times where saying that none of this is really happening and it's just some fantasy in your character's head while he's in a coma or dying or something would have been an improvement. The story doesn't even really go anywhere. The bad guy remains faceless through the whole game and you don't find out why he wants to take over, other than "goverment is bad, grrr", so when the game ends with nothing more than a set up for a sequel, my desire to go through it a second time died on the spot. I was desperately hoping for some kind of twist and the bad guy was going to turn out to be your dad (and I was grasping at that straw purely from how a single scene was lit and shot) and that would have been dumb, but it would have at least been SOMETHING.
Shadow Complex is definitely more Metroid than Castlevania, but what makes Metroid work is that it's an exploration game on an alien world with creepy creatures, scenery and environments, music, and characters. Shadow Complex takes place in a warehouse, against military grunts, has completely forgettable music, and the protagonist is a more generic version of Nathan Drake that doesn't have any interesting features or story. It leaves no lasting impact and was nothing more than a mostly acceptable way to kill three to five hours, depending on how many of the items you want to hunt down.